Are you thinking about whether you should join a health care sharing ministry? We recently took the leap from traditional health insurance to a health care sharing ministry and haven’t looked back when both my husband and I went from being W-2 employees to owning our own businesses. And while being business owners has its perks, we lost all of our benefits, such as health insurance. A health care sharing ministry was the most obvious choice for us given our options, but it might not be right for you. Here’s everything you should consider in deciding whether to join a health care sharing ministry.
WHAT IS A HEALTH CARE SHARING MINISTRY:
A health care sharing ministry is an organization that members join to– you guessed it– share in health care costs. Basically, you pay a fee every month to be a member (which helps cover other people’s health care costs within the ministry) and then when you have a health care need arise, you submit your bills to the ministry and it will help share in the costs (with some caveats). Most health share ministries are exempt from the Obamacare mandate requiring you to carry health insurance (which was repealed in 2017 and went into effect 2019). Basically, a health share ministry is what health insurance should be. You pay a fee per month with the expectation that when a big medical need arises, the ministry will cover it.
WHY WE JOINED A HEALTH CARE SHARING MINISTRY:
We joined a health care sharing ministry because it was the cheapest option and aligned most with what we think health insurance *should* be. My previous employer covered 100% of my family’s health insurance. And our insurance was pretty great. We had a health savings account and life was good. Then, when we decided to become self employed, we lost this amazing benefit. Our cheapest option under the government’s marketplace plans was going to be $880 per month with a deductible of $15,800. Our finances have been a little strapped since opening our own businesses this month, and I couldn’t imagine taking on an extra $880 per month when things were already so tight! Not to mention the fact that never in the history of me or my husband’s life have we ever spent $15,800 on health care in one year, so it felt like spending a ton of money every month to effectively not have health insurance.
I’d heard amazing things about health care sharing ministries in the past but never really considered joining one until I found out just how expensive my health insurance was going to be. When I say amazing things, I mean like I had friends who were paying less than $1000 to give birth in hospitals! So I definitely knew it was worth looking into for me and my family.
We highly considered Liberty, Christian Health Share, and Samaritan. In the end, we chose Samaritan but I think any of these three options are great.
SHOULD YOU JOIN A HEALTH CARE SHARING MINISTRY:
There are a lot of factors to consider in deciding whether you should join a health care sharing ministry. Here are some things you really should know, because I don’t think health care sharing ministries are for everyone.
First of all, unlike health insurance which is legally obligated to help cover costs of health care based on whatever terms you have signed, there are no guarantees that the ministry will actually cover your health care costs. That is by far the most important thing you need to know about health care sharing ministries. There is really no legal obligation for them to pay for your health care costs at all. So you are running the risk of paying the sharing cost each month (usually ranging from $300-$600 for a family of +3) and getting nothing in return. Being a lawyer, I don’t like terms like that. I tend to like better promises than “we might pay for your stuff but you might get totally hosed too.” However, from what I’ve found and from talking to lots of people, it sounds like people tend to not get hosed. In fact, I searched pretty hard to find someone who had been hosed by one of the major health care sharing ministries– and some have been around since the 1980’s– and I couldn’t find anyone. That personally gave me enough comfort to sign up for one but that is definitely a consideration you should not take lightly.
Next, with a lot of the ministries, you’ll be negotiating your medical bills and asking for discounts since you don’t have health insurance. Almost every doctor in the United States will give you a discount for not using insurance because it helps them avoid fees/the collections process. Which is awesome. I really love this part of it because I feel like so often I don’t even know what is happening with our medical bills and doctors fees and have never really paid attention to like an itemized list of things. But with a health share ministry, you are much more hands on and involved and can dispute ridiculous fees (ex: I had a friend who was charged $7 per individual Advil pill that the hospital said it administered to her after giving birth, when in reality, they hadn’t given her any!) I like knowing what I’m being charged for and holding hospitals/doctors/etc accountable for what they are charging me. Some of the health care sharing ministries will do this negotiating for you (Liberty does for sure) but otherwise if you are someone who doesn’t like to talk to people in person or on the phone, a health care sharing ministry might not be right for you.
Also, take into account your religious beliefs. A lot of the major health care sharing ministries require you to get an ecclesiastical endorsement/otherwise affirm that you are a Christian. And you might not be. So that is definitely something that could be problematic. I personally love this aspect of the ministry– I like knowing that when I’m sending my monthly check in, it is going directly to someone within my ministry who has a health issue and I’m helping them. That’s fulfilling to me. I’ve heard that non-denominational health care sharing is also growing, so that might be an option to look into. For me personally, I’d stick with one of the three most popular ones– Samaritan, Christian, or Liberty. (Side note, Medi-Share is another popular one, but I specifically didn’t list it here because I don’t think it even compares to the other three, but that is another post in and of itself).
THE SHORT VERSION
Health care sharing ministries are good for people who are OK with the voluntariness/laid back feel of the ministry (can’t 100% count on getting your bills paid, but history says you can feel pretty dang comfortable about it). Health care sharing ministries are great for people who are TIRED of insurance costing a ton of money every month, only to battle insurance over every single thing in the end anyway, and stilllll have to pay a massive deductible. And lastly, health care sharing ministries are good for people who want a more hands on experience (aka want to hold their hospitals/doctors/etc more accountable for their actions.
If that sounds like a good fit for you, I’d recommend checking out Samaritan, Liberty, or Christian. (None of these are affiliate links, but if you happen to sign up at Samaritan, I’d love if you shared my name, Amber Masters, with them as the person who referred ya!) These are the three most popular/best in my opinion. Liberty is styled a little more like traditional insurance, Christian is recommended by Dave Ramsey, and Samaritan is cheap and has been around forever.
For the comments: have you considered using a health care sharing ministry? Why or why not?
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