Comparing Christian health care sharing ministries can often feel like ordering pizza in a new place. You have a general idea of what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to taste, but there are still a variety of different options and you may not be sure what style of pizza you’re going to get. Growing up, there was nothing like Sunday night Jack’s frozen pizza. When I lived in Brazil, I ordered pizza once at a restaurant and it did not arrive in accordance with its name (It was mostly just bread with olives on it).
If you have done any research on Christian health care sharing ministries, it may have felt a little bit like this video. You may have looked at several ministries and still feel lost on who covers what and how medical expenses get paid and is it really even insurance? If this sounds like you, I just want you to know that you are not alone, and we’re here to help you sort it all out!
What’s going on behind the scenes?
Data shows that over 1 million people are members of Christian health care sharing ministries (this number is continuing to grow). The idea of medical expense sharing communities is that everyone shares a certain amount each month, which then goes toward the medical expenses of other members in the sharing community. When people have their own medical expenses, the shares of other members are used to pay them, as long as it abides by the rules of their membership (For more information on those rules and sharability, check out our other blog on this).
Sharing ministries usually fall into two categories for the maximum members would be expected to pay on their own. These two categories are a per-incident or a per-year amount members are expected to spend out of pocket before eligible medical expenses can be shared. Each has its own benefit, depending on how you prefer to manage your personal risk.
A benefit of Christian health care sharing ministries is, unlike insurance, there are no open-enrollment limitations. Therefore, any time of the year, if you qualify and the numbers make sense, you would be allowed to switch. A drawback is that generally speaking, you won’t receive a budget from your employer to spend health benefits dollars on a sharing ministry (unless your employer uses an innovative solution to help you with medical expenses). No matter what, you should definitely evaluate if you’re spending your money the best way possible for the best coverage available.
What are the differences between sharing ministries?
There are technically over 100 health care sharing ministries recognized by the ACA (most are localized community groups). The list below includes the most popular ministry choices we have seen in our experience. The following ministries are part of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries.
Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) was the original Christian sharing ministry in America, founded in 1981. One of their values as an organization is being as administratively lean as possible in an effort to ensure the maximum amount of dollars “shared” by their members are put toward actual medical expenses. They are a strict reimbursement model, so members must cover initial expenses and later be reimbursed directly from CHM.
There are two CHM benefits its members often cite as meaningful. The first is their low monthly share requirement, which is generally lower than others in the space. The second is that they use a per-incident model for reimbursement. Instead of having an annual limit for the household, the limit is per occurrence of an issue that incurs medical expenses. Potential drawbacks to CHM would be that, even if it is eventually going to be shared, the initial burden of payment or billing falls on the individual.
Samaritan Ministries really leans into the idea of the community sharing its resources with one another. We’ve seen some strong loyalties to this organization because its members feel so connected with one another. Samaritan is different in that you actually send checks directly to other members that need assistance with medical expenses. This does take a lot of extra work, both in giving and receiving. However, if you’re wired for this type of system and enjoy the community aspect, this could be a great fit for you.
Medi-Share is the largest Christian sharing ministry in the United States, with nearly half a million members. They are also the only sharing ministry with an actual network and network card (you don’t have to say you are “self-pay”). And, they don’t just have any network, it’s the second-largest PPO network in the U.S.
They have patents on their reimbursement process. The system keeps track of your annual household portion. If you have reached your annual limit, you likely won’t see another bill again in that year. For many, the inhibitor with Medi-Share is that they are more expensive than other sharing ministries. You can certainly save more money with other sharing ministries, but you will need to be very well organized when negotiating bills and tracking expenses (and be willing to bear the personal liability for the bill before reimbursement).
Are you spending your medical dollars wisely?
No matter which Christian health care sharing ministry you find most appealing, just remember that there are lots of ways to enjoy pizza. In fact, just this afternoon, I enjoyed a pizza party with 8 different types of pizza, both square and triangle cut. There are benefits and limitations to each health care sharing ministry, so we always recommend reading their full guidelines before signing up to avoid any misconceptions.
The biggest question you need to ask when considering Christian health care sharing ministries is: When was the last time you sat down and evaluated how wisely you were spending your health dollars? Just because something has always operated a certain way does not mean it is the wisest way. At Remodel Health, our goal is to simply help organizations budget better and steward resources in a way that gets more money into your mission. So whether you’re interested in a sharing ministry or not, we can find an innovative solution that works for you and your team!