How many times have you heard that you NEED benefits? Like there are NO options for health insurance if you don’t go the corporate employee route. This is a lie.
Christians are actually revolutionizing the health care industry with the biblical concept of bearing each other’s excessive burdens. What this specifically translates to is the creation of a medical cost sharing ministry, This might be happening in various ministries and in some other groups, but the one I am contributor and recipient of is Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM).
What is a health cost sharing ministry exactly?
CHM is a “nonprofit health cost sharing ministry through which Christians voluntarily share each other’s medical bills. It is not an insurance company. CHM is based on Galatians 6:2 (“Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”) and on the actions of the New Testament church found in Acts 2 and 4.” (Quotations are off their website.)
How Does the Affordable Healthcare Act Affect cost sharing ministries?
(Or as I call it the Expensive Healthcare Act)
“As a healthcare sharing ministry, Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is in the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the PPACA, more commonly known as Obamacare) as an acceptable option to meet the law's individual mandate for health cost coverage.” CHM also noted the following:
Christian Healthcare Ministries:
doesn't reject new members if they have a health condition
doesn't increase rates on members who suffer a costly illness
doesn't "cancel" anyone's membership because of a costly health condition
doesn't set rates based on a member's age, health status, or geographic location
has programs to help members with costs for pre-existing conditions
has a catastrophic illness cost sharing program (Brother's Keeper) that assists members with healthcare costs over $125,000
meets each of the qualifications set forth for health cost sharing ministries in the U.S. healthcare legislation (see excerpt below)
How Does Christian Healthcare Ministries Work?
You make a monthly contribution and are eligible to be reimbursed for qualifying health expenses. If something bad happens to your health, you will be 100% reimbursed.
The con is that you have to pay for well visits but really why should insurance pay for that? That’s like your car insurance paying for you to get your oil changed. That sounds nice, but you pay more every month for that benefit. It was an obvious choice for us to save hundreds each month, even if some months we have to pay for a $75 doctor visit. I’ve heard friends say they pay almost $1K/month for their family’s insurance and then they have to pay co-pays and reach deductibles. For us, we save several hundred a month for what we’d pay for insurance through my husband’s work. Plus who knows what we would have paid for our second child in co-pays and deductibles for all the different providers involved with that. The total cost grossed about $13K after self pay discounts. We paid $0 (and our first 3 months of newborn baby visits were reimbursed.)
The other con is that you are responsible to pay the costs upfront if necessary and it takes about four months to be reimbursed. To avoid being out a bunch of money, you can use 0% interest payment plans, which I have found to be available and at 0% interest. Additionally if your healthcare expense is something like pregnancy, you can ask a head of time for a global agreement or prepayment agreement. With my OB/GYN that worked out where I received the full reimbursement check before my baby was born and I had only made a couple small payments. The delivering hospital wasn’t able to give me numbers a head of time (although I did see this option available at a different hospital and of course adjustments would be made for unexpected changes). However, I got on a 0% interest payment plan and had only made a couple payments when I received full reimbursement.
As you can imagine, CHM defines what exactly is covered and isn’t covered and up to how much money. You are in control of what exactly gets covered and you can chose between Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Membership also is based on units. One unit is one qualifying individual; two units are two qualifying individuals; and three units are three or more qualifying individuals.
What this looks like in our family, is:
My membership level: Gold $150/mth
My husband’s level: Bronze $45/mth
Our two children: Silver $85/mth (it did NOT increase with the 2nd child)
Total Monthly Contribution: $280
Important Note: You need a gold membership to have maternity bills covered. You must have a due date for delivery at least 300 days after joining CHM for bills to be eligible for sharing. This is why I am a gold member. The couple that introduced us to this actually miscalculated on this; big mistake. But they still love the program because they racked up huge bills with their daughter on something else and paid nothing for it.
They also have an option to protect you against catastrophic bills (defined as bills exceeding $125K per illness.) I always hear about how when people get cancer or something like that, it totally destroys the family financially. During such a trial it is such a blessing to know we are listlessly covered. This option is called “Brother’s Keeper” and you can be covered with a $40 annual (nonrefundable) fee per membership plus a variable quarterly fee. So far I believe the quarterly fees have been about $80 and that covers my husband, me and our kids. I pray we’ll never have to take advantage of this but I love knowing that I am supporting fellow believers during their times of struggle.
Can anyone join Christian Healthcare Ministries?
“To be CHM members, participating adults must be Christians living by biblical principles, including abstaining from the use of tobacco and the illegal use of drugs (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), following biblical teaching on the use of alcohol, and attending group worship regularly if health permits (Hebrews 10:25). There are no restrictions based on age, weight, geographic location or health history.”
“Adult children can be a part of your membership until their 26th birthday as long as they meet all of the following qualifications:
They must be Christians living by biblical principles.
They must be single.
They must be your legal dependents (i.e. they must be reported as dependents on your income tax forms).”
Are you interested in joining CHM?
If you are thinking about it but have more questions, definitely check out their website and feel free to ask questions in the comments.
If you decide to go with Christian Healthcare Ministries, please let them know that I referred you!
Alexandra Davis Member ID: 298534
That gives me a free month of membership, which would be a tremendous blessing to our family without costing you a dime! I truly believe in this ministry and it’s saved our family hundreds every month. Whether you use my name or not, I believe this is a great option! If something about this particular cost sharing system doesn’t work for you, I encourage you to research other similar programs.
Other Reasons To Join a Health Cost Sharing Ministry
I truly feel like joining CHM makes me a part of the healthcare solution. Right now the model of insurance getting involved in practically everything creates a total mess that lacks proper incentives and transparency that are vital to allowing a free market to drive costs down and value up. As a self pay patient, I am much more likely to get a straight forward answer to “what will the cost be?” However, the system is so messed up that providers sometimes STILL can’t give me an answer. Can you imagine going to grab some food and you ask the price of a sandwich and they say, “Just accept the food and a couple months later you’ll get a bill and that’s how you can find out the price.”
To be clear, you do not have to go with the lowest cost provider with CHM. It’s just that the organization encourages you to shop around and ask for discounts to be a good steward and considerate of keeping membership costs down for you and the other members. Actually this is another advantage of CHM; I never have to worry about my insurance company not covering the provider I want.
Cons of Christian Healthcare Ministries
I do want to give you a fair warning that it is a little annoying when people act like I am too poor and victimized to afford insurance. This is just an exceedingly better option than most insurance plans. I should feel sorry for THEM for not considering creative and superior solutions for health care! I possibly am sensitive about this but in case you go for it and then experience this, I wanted to give you a heads up.
Also, as you can imagine, you do have to submit some documentation for reimbursement. All of the items required make sense to me and I’ve found it doesn’t take long once I get myself started. It takes about as long for me to scan the papers as it does to fill them out. (Granted, my scanner is kind of slow!) The important thing is to be sure to receive an itemized receipt for services received.
I’ve alluded to it, but there is a delay in reimbursement of about 4 months. As mentioned, financing is usually an option at 0% for bigger expenses, but the little things can add up in a situation like pregnancy. However, I loooove knowing that even with a truly catastrophic situation, we will end up being reimbursed in full. Although this isn’t technically insurance, I believe the deeper need for healthcare coverage is so that the unexpected doesn’t destroy both health and finances.
Once again, if you decide to go with Christian Healthcare Ministries, please be sure to share that I referred you:
Alexandra Davis Member ID: 298534
I love this cost sharing model, but more options are always better so I want to share another idea with you. I recently listened to a podcast “How Capitalism Can Fix Healthcare” and I learned about the Direct Care Movement where health providers, organizations, insurance companies and consumers take on a more efficient, high value market based approach to healthcare that involves drastically less expensive common care (due to less bureaucracy) and insurance for exceptional health situations.
This podcast featured Dr. Josh Umbehr who operates a concierge family practice in Wichita, Kansas, and counsels doctors about making the transition to direct care, bypassing insurance and government, through Atlas.MD. His practice involves a high value membership with a monthly charge that covers things like at cost prescriptions (which sometimes saves his patients hundreds of dollars a month compared to what they paid using insurance), stitches and unlimited appointments at no extra charge.
Let me know in the comments, what do you do for healthcare now and what are you considering?