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Cost Sharing Ministries

Like most Americans, I disagree with many of the aspects of Obamacare, but unlike most Americans I'm not just going to accept it. It is far too expensive (more than our mortgage, and we still can't use it because the deductible is so high.). So I have been on the hunt for an alternative solution to healthcare for the last few months and have been researching several Christian sharing ministries, namely: Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries, and Christian Healthcare Ministries. All three have different strengths that will satisfy the needs of their individual members, but let me break down what we've found as briefly and simply as possible.  All of these ministries have an upfront pledge of beliefs of some sort which is part of the reason they were able to work around the ACA mandates.  I am not pushing you to adopt a Christian perspective, The reason I only presented Christian options  or those which mention “God” is because, to date, I do not know of any other programs in existence that represent other faiths/belief systems.

Liberty HealthShare is a fourth one that does not require members to be practicing Christians in the traditional sense.  They do require that members subscribe to an ethical commitment to religious liberty and engage in some form of regular worship. Needless to say this opened up the doors to a much larger number of people who might be looking for an alternative to conventional health insurance under Obamacare. Their rating from the Better Business Bureau is only a 3.1/5.  From reading the reviews, it seems this is largely because, since they are a newer organization, many providers are not familiar with them, and being newer, they have a smaller “sharing pool” so they seem deny more things.  This is my impression.  I have no direct dealings with them.

CMF CURO is a fifth option which is available to practicing Catholics.  I am not very familiar with their programming.

DISCLAIMER
I chose Medishare for our family.  However, just because there are parts of the other programs that didn't appeal to me doesn't mean they're not the right fit for you. My family is relatively healthy and we are no longer able to have children, so those factors weighed heavily on our decision. I encourage you to get decision guides from each sharing organization and even call them to ask questions to find out which one is right for you.  Currently, other than Liberty, there are not any options that I know of for people who are Jewish or of another belief.  If you know of any new programs that cater to non-Christians, please email support@docsnipes.com and we will add it here.  Additionally, if you click on the links below we may get a referral bonus.  That does not impact your cost at all, it just helps us fund this site.

 

MEDI-SHARE

Learn more about medishare here  
This is the big one we keep hearing about. Medi-Share has been around since 1993 and has an excellent track record of providing for its members' needs. They say that in the last 16 years every eligible need has been covered—eligible being the key word here. Read what Dave Ramsey has to say“Share Calculator” to see what your Annual Household Portion would be.

PROS

  • They negotiate your medical bills for you, working directly with your doctor
  • More lenient on preexisting conditions
  • If you meet certain health criteria you can get a reduction in your monthly share
  • They will help fund up to two adoptions per household with an amount determined by your Annual Household Portion
  • Great plan if you like a more “hands off” approach when dealing with medical bills
  • Sharing for routine well-child care is eligible until the child reaches the age of six.  Some of the other programs do not cover any of it, and infants have to go in frequently for well-visits.
  • Prevention through online resources in the “Health Links” section of the Member Center.
  •  Care Management provides a single point of contact for members in medical crisis.
  • Telephonic Health Coaching through Health Partnerships.
  • The cost of CMS or FDA approved testing, treatments, and up to six (6) months of FDA approved prescription drugs per eligible condition will be considered for sharing.
  • Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is eligible for sharing if the DME is ordered by a qualified CMS approved provider for the treatment of an eligible need.
  • In-patient admission to a skilled nursing facility, rehabilitation facility, long-term acute care facility or inpatient hospice is eligible for sharing if ordered by a qualified Provider for an eligible condition in order to provide care that would otherwise need to be provided in an acute care setting.
  • Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) are eligible for sharing if performed by a licensed therapist, related to an eligible diagnosis, and ordered by a qualified provider (See Section VI.A) for up to 20 visits
  • Psychiatric (meaning a psychiatrist/MD) evaluation and management services, associated lab tests and medications for mental illness related to an eligible medical condition, is eligible for sharing for six months per each new condition (counseling is NOT included)

CONS

  • They can be picky about who you use for a doctor, preferring you use one of their “in-network” doctors, or that you ask your doctor to join their network.  I have been restrained by my HMO for so long, this isn't a big deal.
  • You have to be accepted into the program. Not everyone gets accepted.

 

SAMARITAN MINISTRIES

Learn more about Samaritan here
From the get-go we really liked the look of Samaritan Ministries' healthcare options. Their track record is good and a lot of people say more good things about them than not.  They do not have as big of a subscriber base as Medishare.

With Medi-Share, your monthly share is sent directly to the organization and then they sort through all the claims and make the payments. With Samaritan Ministries, every month you get sent a name and address of another member and your monthly portion is sent directly to them. It feels weird, but members claim it's a very exciting way to handle medical expenses because you know where your money is going, you get to pray for and encourage the people you're helping.

Samaritan Ministries has a $250,000 limit, meaning they'll only pay your medical costs up to that amount. It's your responsibility to set this money aside every year so that if another member ever has a claim more than $250,000 you may be called upon to help pay that burden.

PROS

  • Simple. No nonsense approach. No red tape.
  • Low yearly rates
  • Christians caring for Christians. You send your monthly share directly to fellow believers in need.
  • Low deductibles
  • You can go to any doctor without them having to join the ministry's network or be “approved”
  • Samaritan Ministries can assist members with “patient advocacy services” to negotiate lower rates and improve the relationship between the member and the provider.

CON

  • Money to pay the bills will likely arrive about 3 months after you suffer the need. Because of this you will need to be able to make a small monthly payment to your providers.
  • Some pre-existing conditions are never shared (type 1 diabetes) Other pre-existing conditions require an amount of time in “cured” status before being shared (cancers and heart issues 5 years, most others just 12 months)
  • Members are actively part of the bill receiving and payment process.
  • Regular checkups/routine care appointments are not shared.
  • Maintenance drugs are not shared (4 months of drugs for each incident are shared). Depending on the cost of your regular medications that may or may not be an issue Depending on the cost of your regular medications that may or may not be an issue (Goodrx, other discount sites and low cost programs at Walmart/Walgreens/Publix etc. can offer very big savings,  sometimes costing even less than your insurance copays.  You can also contact the pharmaceutical company that makes the medication and apply for reduced cost medication through their “patient assistance program.”)

 

CHRISTIAN HEALTHCARE MINISTRIES

Learn more about CHM here
This program is very different from the first two. It offers a variety of membership levels that you can choose from depending on how much coverage you want. You can even choose different levels for different family members, which is a huge perk.

PROS

  • Non-routine medical bills your baby incurs in the first three months are eligible for sharing.
  • Different levels of coverage make this a highly flexible option, and those coverage levels can be changed whenever you want.
  • Very affordable
  • One person is considered one unit. So a family of two means you have to purchase two units, and the same with a family of three. But any families larger than three—be it five, ten or even twenty—are still considered THREE units.
  • Has a separate program called Brothers Keeper to help with extremely large medical bills. This seems very similar to Samaritan Ministries' “Save to Share” program.
  • They also have a Reduction Department that aims to help you negotiate with your doctor to get the lowest possible prices on your healthcare.
  • They are the oldest of the “big three,” having been around since 1984.

CONS

  • Normal immunization shots and wellness visits are not covered.
  • Their processing department is allegedly very slow. Needs are usually processed in about three to five months.  That lag is mainly due to the overwhelming amount of people signing up since Obamacare was enacted, CHM has been inundated with needs. In one respect this is a good thing because it means the ministry is growing, which means more people helping other people, but for those that don't have a lot of liquid cash it could mean waiting a while for CHM to send a check to cover your medical expenses.