Insurance Education

What if… I “lost” my insurance? Part 1: Sharing Ministries

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The thought of losing your health insurance can be scary. Many times, healthcare is a defining factor behind important life decisions involving your career and family. It’s no wonder we feel so anxious when our health benefits change. 

You’re likely familiar with traditional group health insurance. Group healthcare is often available through an employer. However, it’s easy to rack up high medical bills with these plans.  

Thankfully, there are great alternative options to group healthcare. Between individual plans, short-term plans, and sharing ministries, there are advantages to going out on your own. 

If you’ve recently “lost” your insurance, take a closer look at sharing ministries!


1. How Sharing works

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, it threw a wrench into the health insurance scene. However, as a result, several new solutions for managing healthcare expenses came to surface. One of these solutions is sharing ministries.  

The basic concept of a sharing ministry is that many people “share” their money through monthly payments. When a member has a medical need, the community helps pay the bill. This results in a more affordable method of managing medical expenses. Today, over 1 million people use a sharing healthcare program. 

There are three major sharing ministries, all part of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is the oldest of the three sharing ministries. People on CHM enjoy a low monthly cost and low per-incident threshold for reimbursement. However, it is a strict reimbursement, meaning that you do not receive any money until you pay the bills first.  
  • Samaritan Ministries is popular because members actually send physical checks to each other to help with medical expenses. While it keeps overhead down, it can be quite cumbersome. However, Samaritan members consider the process deeply meaningful. Just like CHM, you have to pay your bills before you get reimbursed.
  • Medi-Share is the largest and most innovative of the three. They are the only sharing that has a PPO network, and they hold patents on their technology solutions as well as their processes. Medi-Share pays your medical bills on your behalf instead of reimbursement. As the leading cost sharing ministry, they are also the most expensive. However, their experience is most similar to the “normal” way of handling healthcare.


2. When Sharing doesn’t work

Cost sharing ministries are a great way to manage your medical expenses, but they are not a good fit for everyone.  

In order to maintain their financial integrity, cost sharing ministries do not allow people with pre-existing conditions to join. By adding healthy people to their community, more resources are available to help with members’ unexpected medical expenses.

Because sharing ministries are not insurance, they are exempt from the ACA’s “guaranteed issue” rule. Current research from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that up to 50% of individuals that are currently enrolled in group healthcare have pre-existing conditions. If you are struggling medically right now, sharing is probably not for you. 

In some cases, previous medical issues can be handled through sharing ministries. In general, though, we recommend you check out the individual marketplace if you have pre-existing conditions.


3. Preventative coverage

If you think a sharing ministry is a good fit for you, then you may also be interested in purchasing your own minimum essential coverage (MEC). The Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans provide 10 essential health benefits. However, because sharing is not insurance, those benefits will not be included.

Minimum essential coverage works alongside your sharing to cover preventative care. This may include your annual exam, numerous screenings, vaccinations, etc. A MEC lowers what you pay at the doctors, making it more cost effective than paying cash. 


4. Telemedicine

With a sharing ministry, you are billed for any non-preventative visits to the doctor. A typical visit costs anywhere from $150 to $300, which can quickly add up. Therefore, you might be a little apprehensive to get the care you need. 

Thankfully, with the advent of an incredible innovation called telemedicine, you can curb those annual expenses. These “visits” are with real doctors and occur over the phone or computer. Sometimes these virtual appointments can cost as low as $0!  

Data shows that 96% of large employers now offer telemedicine. Medi-Share even provides telemedicine through MDLive as part of their membership. Telemedicine services can be purchased as a standalone product from companies like Teladoc and more, so anyone can take advantage of this resource.


5. Individual marketplace

If you lost your health insurance, but sharing isn’t a good fit, the individual marketplace has lots of great options. If you aren’t offered a group plan anymore, you may qualify for discounts. You will have 60 days after losing your plan to check out these options.

If you’ve recently lost your insurance, we have lots of great resources to help you get started in the right direction. Check out this post from our blog to get a better idea of your choices.