Health share organizations have been around for a few decades, but still, not everybody is familiar with the concept and how exactly these insurance alternatives work. So naturally, many people don’t know if joining a health share program is right for them!
Is Joining a Health Share Right For You?
With the cost of health care continually on the rise and a growing lack of affordable and accessible options, here is why a health share may be the best option for you and your family.
What is Health Share?
Health sharing is a collective and communal approach to covering health care costs. These collectives are usually faith-based in nature, and function by pooling money from members to cover medical costs for all involved. Health share ministries are not required to follow the same regulations as insurance companies and often have limitations on the type of conditions covered.
Many exclude items like:
- preventive care,
- birth control, or
- management of pre-existing conditions.
In addition, if there is not enough money to cover a cost, members have very little recourse in the way they would with traditional insurance companies. Members are informed upfront when they join that cost sharing is never guaranteed.
It’s not all risk though
Despite the lack of heavy legislation around these ministries, however, there is now a requirement for all to undergo annual audits and to make these numbers publicly available upon request. In this way, health shares are still being held accountable. And, they enable an individual to make an informed decision before entering into a membership agreement.
Learn more about some of the challenges and benefits of the health share structure here.
How does it work?
Each health share functions by its own set of rules.
- Some organizations collect a monthly payment into a large pool
- Others ask that money be sent directly to an individual in need
- Some health sharing ministries require the medical bill to be negotiated by the patient before they issue payment
- And others will take care of everything for the member
There are often different levels of coverage provided for a set monthly fee, and new members will need to agree to the terms and conditions outlined by the ministry in order to have a membership approved. Many health share ministries require a member to refrain from drinking or smoking, and some require a commitment to regular exercise and a healthy diet.
You are essentially signing up to join a community of like-minded individuals and agreeing to shoulder the financial medical burden of its members as a team. As long as you are healthy and committed to the outlined lifestyle, joining a health share may be the right health care option for you and your family.
Joining a Health Share – Which one is right for me?
While there are several health share ministries out there, I’ve highlighted the three of the most well-known organizations below. Costs vary, but most monthly dues still come in lower than the average cost of providing one’s own insurance coverage.
Here is a closer look at each one.
Samaritan Ministries has been around since the late 1980’s and officially formed Samaritan Ministries International in 1994. This ministry is funded by it’s members and requires that one month’s share from each member go to support the staff, functions and mission of the organization.
Samaritan Ministries undergoes a yearly independent audit and files a federal form 990 annually. It is available to the public here.
How it works:
There is no waiting or enrollment period with Samaritan and no restrictions on health care providers or networks. Each month, a need is assigned to the members and the monthly share is sent directly to the member in need.
If you are the member in need, you will need to take the following actions after you receiving care:
- Notify Samaritan
- Submit an itemized bill
- Wait for other members will be notified of your need
- Receive the shares to pay your bill
More information can be find in the full guideline packet.
- Classic: This package provides maternity sharing and a 0% co-share for all eligible needs after the first $300. The limit per need is $250,000.
- Basic: This package provides coverage for up to 90% of costs after the first $1500. The limit per need is $236,500.
- Save to Share™(Optional Add-on): This optional program is designed to help members with qualified needs that exceed $250,000.
Package pricing varies based on age and family size, however, this calculator can help you quickly assess the cost of joining this ministry.
To apply for a membership, one must agree to following terms in order to join:
- Agree to the statement of faith
- Agree to the membership agreement
Both can be found here.
Liberty HealthShare Ministries
For nearly 25 years, Liberty HealthShare has been providing a community that “commits to bearing one another’s burdens in prayer, encouragement, and financial support.”
Liberty promises a user-friendly and secure online portal for members and claims to provide a simple way to manage and pay for medical bills.
How it works:
Members will contribute the suggested monthly share amount and be allowed to visit any medical provider they choose with no restrictions on networks. Upon their medical visit the member will show their Liberty Complete ID, and the healthcare provider will bill Liberty HealthShare electronically to apply discounts.
Finally, Liberty HealthShare will reimburse members and providers by sending a check. Liberty HealthShare is available in every state but Pennsylvania.
Monthly share cost is based on age bracket and whether you need coverage as an individual, family or couple. Share costs range from $199 as an individual to as high as $529 for a family depending on the selected package.
- Complete: Share eligible medical bills up to $1,000,000 per incident.
- Plus: Share eligible medical bills up to $125,000 per incident.
- Share: Share 70% of eligible medical bills up to $125,000 per incident.
Each of these packages require that the member first reach an annual unshared amount before coverage kicks in.
According to the site, members must observe Christian standards, accept shared beliefs, and maintain a christian lifestyle in order to join and remain part of the community. The exact expectations are outline in the sharing guidelines.
Christian Healthcare Ministries
Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is “not health insurance; rather, we’re the first and longest-serving health cost sharing ministry, having shared more than $3.5 billion in our members’ medical bills.”
How it works:
- Gold: CHM shares 100 percent of bills for any medical incident exceeding $500. You can receive assistance up to $125,000 per illness.
- Silver: You have a $1,000 personal responsibility per incident or must receive at least $1,000 worth of discounts on your medical bills per incident before CHM shares expenses. You can receive assistance up to a total of $125,000 per illness.
- Bronze: You have a $5,000 personal responsibility per incident or must receive at least $5,000 worth of discounts on your medical bills per incident before CHM shares expenses. You can receive assistance up to a total of $125,000 per illness.
- Brother’s Keeper (Optional Add-on): This add on is a “catastrophic medical bill program.” The annual fee is $40 per family with an estimated quarterly cost of $75 per family.
You can learn even more about each plan here.
To become a CHM member, participating adults must be:
- Christians living by biblical principles,
- Abstain from the use of tobacco and the illegal use of drugs
- Following biblical teaching on the use of alcohol,
- And, attend group worship regularly if health permits.
There are no restrictions based on age, weight, geographic location or health history.
Is Joining a Health Share Ministry Right For You?
While each of these health share options require a faith-based commitment, Liberty HealthShare seems to be the most open to a variety of different belief systems. At the core of each program is a desire to see others taking their health seriously and not abusing their bodies so as to not incur unnecessary trauma and expense.
There are pros and cons to this type of health care coverage, however, even if one only opted for the bare minimum in coverage, it could be enough to avoid financial destitution from an unforeseen medical event.
So what do you think?
Do you have experience with a health sharing ministry? What do you like and dislike about it? Tell us below!
AUTHOR Kerah Kemmerer
Hello! I'm Kerah. I'm a writer and personal finance enthusiast with a background in marketing. I'm also a wedding and portrait photographer, part-time RVer and a lover of simple and minimal living. Always up to some project or adventure over @krisandkerah on Instagram.