7 Health Care Sharing Ministries: Why One of Them Might Be Right for You is a guest post from Jacquelyn Pica.
Health care is one of the most hotly debated and controversial topics in the country. It can be expensive and confusing, and — if we’re being honest — feel hopeless at times.
The high costs and frustration have caused many to turn toward an alternative to traditional health insurance: health care sharing ministries. These organizations are made up of members who share a religious belief or similar ethical values, and split the costs of medical bills.
How Do Health Care Sharing Ministries Work?
The ministries are owned and operated by non-profit religious organizations, which means members are exempt from the Affordable Care Act mandate to purchase health insurance (Note: This bill now removes that requirement for Americans). All members split medical costs, so consumers have much lower monthly payments than you would with traditional health insurance.
Typically, everyone’s monthly payments are pooled together into one large account, which is later allocated to cover medical needs as the ministry sees fit. This helps everyone save money. Each ministry has different lifestyle requirements, but most are in agreement that members must abstain from the use of tobacco and illegal drugs.
Through these plans, you can go to almost any doctor or hospital. Some ministries issue ID cards to members, and others require you submit your bills to the ministry for payment. They also encourage members to maintain a healthy lifestyle so there’s less risk of health-related medical issues.
If traditional health insurance isn’t within your reach, and you share common goals and values with these religious communities, health care sharing may be for you.
Health Care Sharing Ministries and Costs
Here are seven of the most popular health care sharing ministries in the United States. Along with pricing and basic requirements, I included information based on my personal quote as a single 22-year-old woman.
1. Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share
Christian Care Ministry offers its own Medi-Share program, in which “members share each other’s eligible medical bills and, most importantly, encourage and lift one another up in prayer.” This ministry requires members to abstain from the use of tobacco and illegal drugs, and not abuse alcohol or other legal drugs.
- Prices vary based on age and how many people in your family participate. I was quoted at $56-$207 per month, depending on the plan I chose and annual household portion.
You pick your annual household portion, which takes the place of a typical deductible; it ranges from $1,000 to $10,500. The more expensive the annual household portion is, the cheaper your standard monthly share. For example, if I chose $1,000 as my annual household portion, my standard monthly share would cost $207.
Once the annual portion is met, 100% of eligible medical bills can be published for sharing. Every month, Medi-Share publishes medical bills for sharing and facilitates the cost-sharing between members. The bills are posted in a secure online portal, so each member can see whose bills are being paid.
2. Samaritan Ministries
Healthcare sharing through Samaritan Ministries occurs throughout the world. The website states, “all members, regardless of where they reside, join together to help members in need.” Members must abide by a Statement of Faith, and verify their accountability via annual forms filled out by their pastor.
- After inputting my marital status and age into the cost calculator, I was quoted $100 per month for the basic plan and $160 for the classic plan.
One interesting thing I noticed about Samaritan Ministries is they don’t pool their money — instead, they utilize “direct sharing” and the money goes from member to member. This means that instead of sending your check off to the ministry, you send it straight to another member.
3. Christian Healthcare Ministries
Christian Healthcare Ministries “is an affordable, biblical, and compassionate faith-based healthcare cost solution for Christians in all 50 states and around the world.” This ministry requires members to abstain from the use of tobacco and illegal drugs, while also following biblical principles regarding the use of alcohol.
- There are three different participation levels: gold, silver and bronze. All offer differing levels of health cost-sharing support.
- The monthly costs range from $45 to $150 per person
With Christian Healthcare, medical care providers will bill you directly and must provide an itemized bill. Then, you send it to the ministry. Some ministries handle the medical bills 100%, but you’ll have to do a bit of work with this plan.
Liberty HealthShare is based on Christian principles and “unites like-minded people to share medical costs together.” Liberty has a set of guidelines they ask members to follow, but they accept people of all faiths.
- There are three different plans with three tiers of pricing — based on age — plus, single, couple or family pricing. For me, a single person under 30, I would pay anywhere from $199 to $249 per month, depending on which plan I choose.
- Family plans range from $429 to $479
When visiting a doctor, simply present your card and the bill will be sent to Liberty to process for “sharing eligibility.” You can check out Michelle’s review about Liberty Healthshare.
5. Solidarity Healthshare
Solidarity unites “like-minded Christians to share medical costs together,” and describes itself as a “community of health-conscious Americans.” Solidarity is another ministry that allows members from all religions, as long as they abide by the Statement of Shared Beliefs.
- There are three separate plans: whole, extend and first
- My monthly payments would range from $107 to $149
- Family plans range from $345 to $499 per month
When seeing a doctor or at the hospital, explain that you’re self-pay but are a part of Solidarity Healthshare. Show them your card and let them know bills can be sent either electronically or by mail, as stated on the card.
Altrua Healthcare ensures “members are honest with each other and share a set of ethical or religious beliefs.”
- There are two types of memberships: standard and advantage. Each type is broken down into gold, silver and bronze tiers.
- For standard, monthly payments start at $120. With advantage, they start at $100.
With Altrua, you’ll have a membership card you show to medical providers. Your bills should be sent via mail or electronically, as stated on your ID card.
7. Unity Healthshare
Unity Healthshare promotes “sharing the cost of healthcare among a community of like-minded people.” This company also accepts members of any religion as long as they agree with the Statement of Beliefs.
- Unity offers a few types of plans: Value, Plus and Premium.
- Plans start at $142 per month
All you need to do with Unity is show your member ID card to the doctor, who then sends your bill to Unity. The healthshare will perform an analysis and determine the amount it will pay.
Is a Health Care Sharing Ministry Right for You?
Health care sharing ministries definitely have their pros: low costs, a like-minded and supportive community, and low annual deductibles. However, these plans do have some cons.
For instance, ministries aren’t under any legal requirement to cover medical all expenses, meaning your bills could be denied for coverage. Also, different ministries have varying rules based on pre-existing medical conditions.
With that said, these plans could provide an affordable alternative to traditional health insurance plans.
Are you part of a health sharing ministry? If not, would you consider joining one?
Jacquelyn Pica is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. You can follow her on Twitter @JacquelynTPH.