My Christian Healthcare Ministries Review: When we learned that our insurance would be canceled because it did not meet the ACA guidelines, we looked at the new rates and deductibles with shock. Our old PPO had a $3500 deductible/$10,000 out of pocket plan for which we paid $469 a month, while the new PPO rates were about $1200 a month with a $6000 out of pocket and deductible. The shock we felt spurred us to look for other options and we found one that worked for our self-employed family. Also, we needed a national health insurance plan due to business travel. People kept asking why we didn't just take the subsidy. The reasons are numerous, but mainly because our income varies from year to year and we prefer not to force other people to care for our needs. A Healthcare Sharing Ministry is a voluntary association of people volunteering to help each other.
Buried in the ACA is a provision that allows Health Care Sharing Ministries,providing they have operated continuously since December 1999. There are four such ministries that I know of; three are based upon shared religious beliefs of sharing each others burdens and the fourth, a shared philosophy of helping your neighbors.
All require an adherence to a biblical lifestyle of refraining from risky or immoral behavior as defined by the Holy Bible, and none that I'm aware of will accept members who smoke tobacco. Each ministry has their own, member chosen set of of rules and needs that they will share with the group, but they generally believe that you should budget for preventative care and they do not cover general dentistry or psychiatric care.
We chose Christian Health Care Ministries (CHM) because it met our needs better than the others. I have not closely examined the other three, so I'll focus on CHM and my experience with them.
The amount paid each month is called your “share” and is based upon the sharing level that you wish your needs to be shared, as well as the number of units in your family. Two parents and all of the children are equal to 3 units. We chose to share at the $150 per unit Gold level because the price was comparable with our pre-ACA insurance plan, has fewer limitations on needs that will be shared, and has only a $500 personal responsibility per incident. For each unit, a second incident within the year reaching $500 is shared in it's entirety. We also participate in the unlimited catastrophic care program called Brother's Keeper which is billed quarterly and is based upon the current medical needs of the group—this quarter, we paid only $7 per unit, but it can be as high as $25 each, depending upon the current needs of this sub-group.
There aretwo lower levels with higher personal responsibility and a smaller set of needs that will be shared by the group and they are extremely reasonable. The Silver level is $85 per unit with a $1000 personal responsibility, and the Bronze level is only $45 with a $5000 personal responsibility. For people with a pre-existing condition, CHM's Gold level members share some of the expenses over the first three years at which point the member's needs are fully shared. CHM has a prayer needs page for people who are members, but their pre-existing needs have exceeded the amount allowable. Each month, the newsletter lists the patients and their needs with a statement saying that "all of the needs on this page could be met if every member family sent an extra $$". It is completely voluntary; usually around $8 or $9 a month, and has gone down from $12 with the addition of so many new families. I received a thank you note from someone to whom CHM sent my extra donation.
There is a lot of information on the website and should be explored thoroughly for those who are interested.
Why we chose CHM over the other Christian ministries
CHM doesn't require a higher share for higher risk people nor do they reject anyone - One of the other charities requires people to pay more if their waist circumference is deemed too large. They also require a yearly blood test to assess risk and are said to reject about 5%.
CHM has the lowest overhead of the three Christian groups-- One group had what I considered to be a very high overhead, and the other was still higher than CHM's very low overhead. I only found out about the fourth group recently, so I can't say.
CHM is the only group that covers pre-existing conditions – it doesn't matter in my situation, but I think it's a nice to accommodate for real people.
CHM requires that you send the money to them-- CHM pools the monthly gifts and sends the money directly to the patient. One group requires that you send checks to the recipient directly with the patient completing a checklist of who sent them a gift. At a patient's request, CHM does send cards to other members with the name of someone and their health needs for a request for prayer and a card of encouragement.
CHM has a catastrophic plan that is managed at their facility and is unlimited at the Gold Level—at least one other group asks the members to "put aside" their catastrophic gift to be called upon later if needed, and I think all of the other groups have a limit on the catastrophic needs.
CHM has the highest rating at the Better Business Bureau! – I think one other group is rated as high, but not the other two. Also, all of the groups are required to be audited yearly by an outside agency.
CHM has a $500 baby plan for married couples at the Gold Level – I'm a little old to be having babies, but it's nice to have while it could still happen.
CHM does not prorate the sharing amount if there is a shortfall one month--sharing will just be postponed to the next month in the order the needs were received. I believe that all of the other ministries will reduce the shared amounts in a prorated manner.
My experience with CHM has been exceptional! They've returned numerous emails and phone calls when I've had general questions and specific need sharing questions. They sent a check to me when I had a need that exceeded $500, as promised. They phoned to ask if we wanted our daughter's health need to be published and prayed for.
When we had a $3500 deductible with our insurance, we had to pay cash at every doctor visit, and this has not changed with CHM. The billing personnel at the medical clinics are somewhat familiar with these programs and I suspect they will begin to get very familiar!
In an emergency hospitals will treat the patient, then send a bill. CHM negotiates for discounts by promising to pay quickly, however the check will come to the patient who must pay the bill as soon as the check is received. It's part of your agreement with CHM. For very large expenses CHM discusses the details with the hospital and assures them of payment. With so many people signing up with Healthcare Sharing Ministries, the hospitals will become more familiar with this concept and perhaps appreciative!
For those who say that there is no guarantee with the ministries like there is with insurance... I had Reliance Insurance Company while I was pregnant with twins, and unbeknownst to me, they were in the process of bankruptcy! I'm fortunate my children were a month early, because all but last $10,000 in NICU bills were paid by the judge. Had they been on time, I'd have been completely out of luck. So no, insurance companies are not a guarantee of payment.
If you decide to join CHM, please use my member number as a referral. For the time being, I get a free month after the new member has paid their third month. Thanks for reading and God Bless you and yours!