Looking for a logical alternative to the high costs of Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans? A Healthcare Sharing Ministry may just be the solution you are searching for. Healthcare Sharing Ministries (HCSM) have been around since the 1980’s and have become increasingly popular since the creation of the Affordable Care Act. It is estimated that almost 1 million Americans were participating in HCSMs in 2017 and that number will continue to increase.
Why are Healthcare Sharing Ministries so popular?
- Members of a HCSM are exempt from the Individual Mandate which allowed individuals to be penalized up to 2.5% of their adjusted gross income for not carrying Affordable Care Act Coverage.
- The list of required services provided by Affordable Care Act plans do not sit well with some Christians. ACA plans must cover birth control and may cover the costs associated with an abortion.
- HCSM members are typically like-minded people who ban together to help one another pay for medical burdens. Many HCSMs require members to sign a Statement of Beliefs and abstain from illegal activity, excessive drinking, and other behaviors. HCSMs may also require members to participate in lifestyle behavior programs to reduce health risks associated with being overweight, having high cholesterol and/or blood pressure.
- The costs of membership in a HCSM can be up to 1/3 the monthly cost of an ACA plan.
- There are no networks to abide by and the HCSM negotiates pricing with the doctor or the facility providing care.
Healthcare Sharing Ministries are not insurance
- This means the HCSM does not have to play by the rules of insurance. All medical expenses are submitted and the HCSM can either approve or deny the expenses.
- Typically, HCSMs have an “annual share amount” instead of an annual deductible. Members do not pay a monthly “premium” they pay a monthly share that is used to help pay the health care costs of other members.
- HCSMs generally have a waiting period before the will cover the expenses for a pre-existing condition if they will cover it at all. HCSMs may or may not include preventive care and routine sick visits to the doctor.
There are a number of HCSMs available now. Each on is independent and operated on their own terms. While some HCSMs may have similar practices, they all are different. There are some Insurance Brokers that work with HCSMs and can explain the programs and help to identify a plan that aligns with your budget and your principals. These Brokers also get paid a commission from the HCSM for the members that they enroll. There are some HCSMs that do not work with Brokers, so you can deal directly with the company. Bottom line, do your research, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be willing to be completely honest about your health history. If you work with a Broker be sure that is someone you can trust to be by your side to guide you along if a situation arises. Be sure that person will stand along side you and the product they sold you.