When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in March of 2010, it sincerely disrupted the healthcare industry in the United States. The ACA brought about major changes, like removing annual or lifetime limits on insurance payouts, requiring minimum essential coverage and mandating that preexisting conditions must all be covered.
Those who endorsed the ACA cited difficulty to gain coverage and continued increase in premium costs. The changes brought about by the ACA caused such a disruption in the health insurance industry, that prices not only continued to increase but actually got worse for many. However, in the midst of any large disruption in any industry, something always happens: new opportunities arise from the chaos.
Mama told me to always share!
One opportunity that arose was sharing ministries. Sharing ministries are built on the principle of connecting healthy people together to lower the total community exposure to new, major medical expenses. The shared funds are available to support all of its members. Lots of individuals and groups have benefited from this model. And, they are part of a special community who shares the load with one another. Sharing ministries can be both a huge fiscal win and a very meaningful, spiritual experience.
The basic concept is that an individual pays their monthly share allotment, which feels similar to a premium in many ways, but is not. They then commit to cover their own medical expenses directly out-of-pocket for their household, but only up to a certain point (let’s say $4,250). The eligible medical expenses above that are shared. The household portion is sometimes annual or per incident, depending on the ministry. When you look at the numbers, Christian sharing ministries can provide huge financial wins for families and organizations who want better stewardship.
Isn’t pre-existing coverage required by law?
Yes, the ACA required pre-existing conditions to be covered by insurance. However, community sharing of medical expenses like what we’re discussing is not insurance. In fact, there were a handful of sharing communities that received special “exemptions” from ACA law as a provision to accommodate their ministries. The biggest economic factor that keeps medical sharing alive is to not “share” any pre-existing conditions – only new ones.
You may have already started looking into sharing. (Especially if you’ve seen the price-point). I will admit that I’m a member of a sharing ministry. But it is imperative to remember that sharing is not for everyone. In a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation, it found that 50 percent of all people with employer-sponsored health insurance plans had pre-existing conditions. Thus, Christian sharing ministries are not for everyone.
Another significant factor when considering Christian sharing ministries is their Statement of Faith, committing that you agree with their theological positions. While those beliefs don’t include anything too out of the ordinary, it is considered a ministry and you are becoming a member of that Christian community. Therefore, they have some additional exclusions on what they will and will not share depending on if the expenses were incurred during Biblical activity or not.
A friend of mine told me…
As with just about everything on the Internet nowadays, you can find extremely negative reviews about Christian sharing ministries. These reviews are almost entirely in regard to medical expenses people thought would be shared but were not. It’s not that the sharing program did not function as it had promised it would; rather, those individuals likely did not know what they were signing up for from the start. The bottom line is, if you are healthy, Bible-believing Christian with no preexisting conditions, then Christian sharing ministries may be a good fit for you. If not, there are likely some options available that will fit your needs better.
Can’t some communities share preexisting?
There continues to be a lot of talk around preexisting conditions and their shareability in these ministries. We have seen more complex methods from certain sharing ministries where the community offerings were designed to help accommodate this problem of medical issues already in the body before signing up for sharing. Though we have seen wins and losses along these lines, we have always seen a bit of confusion surrounding these complicated systems.
That is not to say that those options are wrong for you or your staff. But, it’s best to work with a licensed and certified expert in the industry to get their advice on how you can best steward your resources as well as serve your family and team. There are some innovative opportunities out there, and working with a licensed professional can save you both time and money in the long run.