My Christian Healthcare Ministries Review:
When we learned that our insurance would be canceled because it didn't meet the ACA guidelines, we looked at the new rates and deductibles with shock. The new PPO rates were three times the old rate with a higher deductible! We immediately looked for other options and we found one that worked for our self-employed family. Christian Healthcare Ministries offered a national health insurance plan which we needed for business travel, for close to what we were paying for the PPO. Healthcare Sharing Ministries are voluntary associations of people volunteering to help each other, so the rates only reflect the amount needed to cover people's medical burdens.
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 haven't 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 Gold level ($172/unit) 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 person, 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 $45 each, depending upon the current needs of this sub-group.
There are two 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 $118 per unit with a $2500 personal responsibility, and the Bronze level is only $78 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:
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. My brother's kid shattered a femur and CHM negotiated the amount from $59K down to $27K and sent the check to my brother quickly.
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 my girls 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. Thanks for reading and God Bless you and yours!