Understanding Healthcare Sharing Ministries
By Steve Gaito
For many Americans, healthcare has become the most significant expense in their budget. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), the cost of health insurance premiums has skyrocketed for millions of Americans that do not qualify for subsidies. But there is a reasonably priced alternative with the rapidly growing sector known as healthcare sharing ministries.
Healthcare sharing ministries manage plans that are not insurance in the traditional sense because they are structured to cover healthcare costs with equitable responsibility across all plan participants. As the name implies, the cost of these plans is shared by people of a similar faith to provide coverage for major health events and more. According to healthinsurance.org, over 1 million people have opted for these plans as of 2018. While these sharing plans differ from traditional insurance in several ways, many include networks and co-pays just like regular health insurance.
To participate in a faith-based cost-sharing plan, there are specific requirements for acceptance. Standard criteria for joining a healthcare sharing ministry might include verification of regular attendance at a church, adhering to certain lifestyle choices that encourage good health, and other elements that are affiliated with a belief in God. Many of these plans exclude pre-existing conditions or require a waiting period before these conditions are covered. Understanding that your health history and any pre-existing conditions may impact the potential benefits is vital in choosing the best option to help with healthcare costs.
Most healthcare sharing ministries offer three levels of plans. Catastrophic type plans are structured to help with major health events that might otherwise be financially out of reach for most Americans. Typical coverage would include only hospital and emergency room costs and usually require participants to pay out-of-pocket. They would then submit a claim to their healthcare sharing plan and recoup their expenses. This type of plan is a good option for people who don’t regularly visit doctors but still want protection if a major health event should occur.
The second type of plan offered typically covers primary physician care, but the extent of coverage can vary greatly from plan to plan. Carefully reviewing a potential plan before signing up will prevent any surprises down the road. Some of these plans allow participants to see a doctor of their choice or restrict coverage to a particular network. One plan may provide coverage with co-pays while another may reimburse out-of-pocket costs after the fact. This type of coverage may be the best option for people who want reasonable access to regular healthcare and protection from the costs of a major health event.
The third type of plan found with healthcare sharing ministries is much more comprehensive and can be structured similar to traditional health insurance. Preventive procedures, annual physicals, primary care, lab work, and urgent care are just some of the types of coverage participants can expect with these plans. A co-pay structure is typical, so participants can keep out-of-pocket costs to a minimum. Some of these comprehensive plans even provide access to telemedicine resources where participants can consult with a physician 24/7/365. This coverage is an attractive option for people who want as much coverage as possible for prevention and maintenance as well as protection from major medical expenses.
If you are in relatively good health and want to save money, a faith-based health plan may be a good option for you and your family. It is not uncommon to see savings of $500 a month or more depending on your age and the number of members in your family. Imagine what you could do with an extra $6000 a year. One last feature of these plans is there is no annual enrollment so you can switch today and start saving immediately. As a Certified Financial Planner™, I know that your hard-earned money can accomplish more with the right strategy. If you have questions, please call me and schedule a time to come by my office.
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Steve is owner of Faith Based Health Care and Retirement Resource Management. He is a National Speaker on the topic of Social Security optimization, quoted in national publications like Money Magazine, US News and World Reports and Fox Business. Steve loves to educate and teach on financial topics like taxation of retirement accounts, long term care, healthcare, and efficient savings plans for small businesses. He has provided financial planning for missionaries through the International Mission Board. You can find Steve at 68 South Main St. in Marion, NC by calling 828-559-0299, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.faithbasedhc.com