As health insurance premiums rise, many consumers are exploring alternatives such as healthcare sharing programs. These are typically organized under ministries of various religious denominations and operate outside of traditional health insurance.
They offer monthly’shares’ that are distributed to members with eligible medical expenses, following guidelines similar to an insurance deductible. In this guest post, Jake Thorkildsen provides an in-depth review of some of the most popular healthcare sharing programs and ministries.
In the wake of rising health insurance premiums, millions of Americans are seeking truly affordable alternatives. One solution is the growing popularity of health-sharing programs. These plans are not technically insurance, but they do offer many of the same benefits of traditional health care coverage at a fraction of the cost.
Health-sharing programs are cooperatives — often religious-based — in which members share the costs of their medical bills. While the plans do not require that participants adhere to any particular religion, they usually ask that they live a moral and healthy lifestyle.
These plans can be paired with Direct Primary Care (DPC) services to provide an even more affordable alternative to traditional health insurance. Most of these programs have monthly contributions and annual “unshared amounts” that are significantly lower than the deductibles found in marketplace health insurance plans. However, they may not be suitable for those with complicated pre-existing conditions. They also do not cover preventive health care or wellness visits.
A health share program is different from a traditional insurance plan. These cooperatives – usually faith-based and community-driven – aren’t bound by the same laws that regulate and protect consumers when it comes to how premiums are collected and benefits are paid. They’re also often exempt from negotiated discounts that are offered through regular health insurance plans. Because of this, they’re able to be more selective about who they accept as members.
They require that a member pays an initial “initial unshareable amount” before sharing begins. However, their monthly contributions are typically much lower than the deductibles that come with marketplace health insurance plans. This makes them more affordable for people who don’t qualify for subsidies in the exchanges. The downside is that health care sharing ministries don’t cover pre-existing conditions or lifestyle-related ailments like tobacco use. They also may not cover the ACA’s essential benefits. These requirements make it important to choose the right health share program for your family’s needs.
With the costs of health care and insurance premiums on the rise, consumers are turning to healthcare sharing programs in ever-increasing numbers. These faith based healthcare sharing plans are a viable alternative to traditional health insurance and allow you to serve others as an expression of your faith while saving on your own medical bills.
Most healthcare sharing programs require that members contribute a monthly amount and share in medical expenses as they arise. Similar to an insurance deductible, many programs have an initial unshareable amount that the member is responsible for paying.
Most healthcare sharing programs are religious-based and require that their members affirm and adhere to certain religious beliefs, lifestyles, and principles. These include attending worship services, living a healthy and moral lifestyle, abstaining from tobacco and drugs, and serving others in the community. However, there are some programs that do not have these strict requirements. It is important to determine which program best suits your needs.
Health-sharing ministries have sprung up since Obamacare passed, offering a lower-cost alternative to traditional insurance. They are typically religious-based and require members to share medical expenses based on biblical and moral principles. Members contribute monthly to a pool that funds other members’ medical needs, often paying out-of-pocket costs for services like annual deductibles.
Many health-sharing ministries operate outside of the health insurance marketplace and are shielded from state regulations that would normally govern the industry. That allows them to offer a more flexible plan with lower monthly fees and often no annual deductible.
Unlike other health sharing coverage programs, most of these share-cost-sharing ministries do not qualify as qualified medical expenses for purposes of tax breaks such as the Health Savings Account (HSA). However, an IRS proposal issued in January could change that by clarifying that monthly payments to ministry plans and direct primary care can be used to reimburse employees’ monthly health insurance premiums through an HSA.