As families across the country search for quality health care that doesn't break the bank, many are looking to health care sharing ministries as an alternative to Obamacare. Those who earn too much to qualify for financial assistance can find themselves paying $2,000 every month or more just to keep their family insured and avoid the annual fine of up to $2,085 per person. Health care sharing ministries like our sponsor Medi-Share offer an affordable option for families struggling to stay afloat.
The idea of connecting religious beliefs with health care stirs up a good deal of controversy, but many members are finding that it provides them with a great deal of comfort and relief.
What is a health care sharing ministry?
Selecting a new insurance provider can be confusing enough. Now, with health care sharing ministries, we're looking at even more unfamiliar jargon. Essentially, the most important thing to realize is that a health care sharing ministry is not the same as a health insurance provider. Yes, the focus is on covering medical expenses for its members, but there are a few key differences that make these ministries unique.
The first, and most controversial, component is that health care sharing ministries are centered around religion. Members are expected to share the same beliefs and will need to provide evidence accordingly. Some ministries require that a pastor sign an affidavit attesting to your involvement in the church, whereas others simply require members to sign documentation showing that they agree to the shared set of beliefs.
The second difference is the fact that health care sharing ministries offer no guarantees that your bills will be paid. While these ministries still comply with the affordable health care act, relieving members of the annual fees for a lapse in coverage, there are no agencies regulating them. They do not require licensing by insurance regulatory agencies, which is precisely why they are not able to label themselves as insurance companies.
For those who feel strongly about not supporting specific medical practices that conflict with their religious beliefs, health care sharing ministries offer the unique opportunity to be selective about what you support. Ministries can choose to not cover procedures that clash with the shared beliefs, such as abortions or injuries caused by drunk driving. Additionally, members offer each other spiritual support, which for many is a big factor in their decision to choose a health care sharing ministry over traditional insurance companies.
What's the catch?
Technically, there's no catch. Health care sharing Ministries like Medi-Share aren't shy about their religious affiliation, and they don't claim to be the same as traditional health insurance. Instead, they simply present an alternative solution. But of course, there are still concerns. The ministries that don't require strict proof of shared beliefs run the risk of bringing on members who don't honestly share the same beliefs. This is remedied by their ability to only cover medical bills that align with the moral standards of their beliefs. On the flip side, there may be some surprises when it comes to what they will or won't cover. Ministries are not prohibited from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions.
How affordable is it, really?
Like insurance companies, each health care sharing ministry has its own unique offerings and pricing structure, but the basics bear a striking resemblance. For example, traditional health insurance typically offers different levels of annual deductibles and monthly pricing. Ministries follow a very similar structure, but with different jargon. Medi-Share members are required to pay an annual household portion (AHP), which is the amount members are required to pay before Medi-Share starts picking up the bill, as well as a monthly share amount.
The amount you pay will depend on your household size and age, but what's included can vary greatly depending on which ministry you choose. Medi-Share offers a number of perks including discounts on vision, dental and hearing care, free access to virtual providers and no cap on expenses eligible for sharing. Regardless, if you're facing an insurance premium that costs more than your monthly mortgage, health care sharing ministries may just be the alternative solution your family needs.
This video gives a quick overview of Medi-Share: