The Complete Guide to Medical Cost Sharing
Boiled down, medical cost sharing, or health sharing ministries, are a group of like-minded individuals that agree to come together and help each other pay their medical expenses. They offer faith-based programs for planning for unforeseen medical expenses. They're not for everyone, but they are definitely worth exploring!
Since it is not health insurance, they don't have to play by the same rules. For instance, since there are no network requirements, you can go to whatever doctor you like. Once you enroll, you get a membership card, and when your doctor asks for your insurance, you can just give them your card. For many of the programs, it will be processed in the same way.
On the rare occasion that the doctor will not accept your membership, these health sharing programs do pay in cash. That means you can always get reimbursed if you choose to stay with that doctor and pay out of pocket.
How do they work?
Basically, everyone pays in a certain monthly share amount, and for your own expenses, you are responsible for covering an “annual personal responsibility”, or “unshared amount” (like a deductible). Then, the rest of your medical expenses are shared among the group from what they have paid in – in many cases up to $1 million per incident!
Are there Restrictions?
Yes. Since they are faith-based ministries, they do have different guidelines (like smoking, or certain pre-existing health or lifestyle-related conditions). In which case they will decline membership.
Many HCSM do take people with pre-existing health conditions – they accept about 97% of them. These types of conditions may be handled in a few different ways. The condition may be phased in. If that's the case, members do not share costs for that condition during the first year. Then during years two and three of membership, members share up to $50,000 of eligible expenses to treat that condition. However, some pre-existing conditions might never be shareable. You can always just call an ask.
Are there programs for families?
Yes! They have programs for the entire family. A family can participate in a very comprehensive option. There are also caps on how much can be charged to a family. There are a range of options less expensive than that depending on how much you want shared.
What is the difference between the health care sharing ministries?
All of the available medical cost sharing ministries are very similar, but there are some differences among them. The largest differences are in their acceptance guidelines, if they process medical bills electronically or not, and if they allow cost sharing of alternative or natural treatments.
If a Health Cost Sharing Ministry seems like an option for you or your family, we would like to help showing all of the options available.