As you’ve probably heard, some religious groups such as Muslims and the Amish, are exempt from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandates. Muslims, for instance, consider insurance a form of gambling, which is prohibited under their religion. The Amish have a tradition of helping each other recover from storms, fires, and other calamities, including hospital bills, and have been exempt from Social Security, Medicaid and other programs for over 50 years. They’re exempt from Obamacare mandates, as well.
You don’t have to be a member of a specific cultural or religious group to receive the exemption, however. By voluntarily submitting to some basic guidelines, you can participate in a Christian healthcare sharing plan — and possibly enjoy some significant savings, as well.
And yes, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
There are several Christian ministries which share costs among their members on a monthly basis. It needs to be emphasized that these programs are not insurance – the members reimburse each other for incurred costs.
They fulfill the directive of Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
How Christian Shared Healthcare Ministries Work
In most cases, you’re responsible for paying for checkups, physicals, and doctor visits for things like colds. The cost-sharing plans come into play when you have unexpected bills for hospital visits – accidents, and major illnesses.
Christian healthcare cost-sharing organizations are not insurance companies – they do not send money to your physician or hospital. Instead, they reimburse you for those costs. If you have the resources to pay your bill in full, you do so, and submit the expense for reimbursement. If funds are an issue, you make arrangements to pay by installment, and when your expense is reimbursed, you pay the balance, keeping the part you’ve paid out of your pocket.
The important thing is to tell the doctor or hospital that you will be paying them in cash — and ask for a cash discount. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell them you are part of a healthcare cost-sharing organization, and that (for instance) the first $1000 of an expense won’t be reimbursed, and ask for a discount in that amount.
Qualifying for Christian Shared Healthcare Ministries
Many of these ministries will cover (some) pre-existing conditions, and will go the extra mile to make sure their members can afford necessary healthcare. One of the ways they make this affordable is by limiting participation to people who follow a Biblical lifestyle. So if you’re currently using illegal drugs, or abusing alcohol, you won’t be eligible for coverage until you’ve been clean and sober for a while. None of the guidelines should come as a surprise, though.
Most of the ministries will cover you if you follow Biblical guidelines for using alcohol, and at least one allows for an occasional pipe or cigar, although habitual tobacco users aren’t eligible. If you’re a cigarette smoker or heavy smokeless tobacco user, you likely won’t qualify.
It might take a couple days research and a few emails or phone calls to find the ministry that’s the best fit for you.
List of Christian Shared Healthcare Ministries
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ll be glad to add an organization to the list if you contact me. These are the organizations that I found online, and talked to while looking for coverage for myself. Information on each one comes from their website and/or phone calls with them.
It’s worth pointing out that I’m fairly healthy, overall – I haven’t had more than a sore throat since I started (more-or-less) following the primal lifestyle at Mark’s Daily Apple almost six years ago. I have AFLAC for catastrophic healthcare needs, and haven’t felt the need to visit a doctor (other than dentist or chiropractor) in a long time. My goal for now is to avoid the fines and other issues associated with mandatory health insurance. (The links in this paragraph take you to my preferred providers.)
- Samaritan Ministries – They’ve been around since 1994, and currently serve over 165,000 people. Their monthly plans start at $180 per person, and there are discounts for covering the entire family, and discounts for people under 25.
- Medi-Share – Begun informally 50 years ago, they’ve been “official” since 1993. Their plans vary according to age, and how much you plan to cover yourself. For instance, a man age 30 could expect a monthly payment of under $90, whereas a 50-year-old man would pay twice that, assuming you’ll pay the first $10,000 of your medical bills each year. For an annual “deductible” of $1250, the monthly payment is $400 for a 50-year-old man.
- Liberty HealthShare – They began informally in the 80s, and began formal operations in 1995. They feature a fairly simple tiered structure beginning at 70% of eligible medical costs up to $125,000 per incident. There are discounts for people under the age of 30.
- Christian Healthcare Ministries – CHM was founded in 1981, likely the first formal Christian healthcare cost sharing ministry. They currently have over 170,000 members, and operate with a fairly simple three-tiered system, with some options. They use a unit system; a unit is a participating individual within a membership. For example, a single person is one unit, a married couple is two units, and a family is three units, regardless of the number of dependent children. A single-parent household is two units. Plans begin at $45 per unit per month, with a “deductible” of $5,000 per medical incident.
I didn’t find the qualifications of any of the programs to be a problem, and ultimately picked Christian Healthcare Ministries, because it was the least expensive. I also picked the least expensive option, but I intend to upgrade as I’m able. If things go well, I won’t need their services, but I like knowing I’m helping other people with their needs.
That said, if you use this link, I’ll get a free month if you sign up, or you can put my member number as a referral – #249816 – for the same effect. Don’t feel obliged; my cost is low and it’s going to a good cause.
My needs were simple, so I urge you to contact these companies and do your own research. I found all of them to be cordial and very helpful, and I anticipate you’ll find a program that suits your needs — and with a lot less fuss than navigating the Obamacare system.