Are Health Care Sharing Ministries

A Good Option?

By Dave Anderson-Church Accounts Manager YCA

Many churches do not offer health insurance for staff, leaving pastors to find creative ways to cover medical expenses.

Healthcare sharing plans, also known as health sharing ministries, can be a viable option for some individuals. Whether they are a "good" option depends on various factors and individual circumstances. Here are some considerations:

1.   Cost: Health sharing plans can often be more affordable than traditional health insurance, especially for individuals or families who are relatively healthy. However, it's essential to consider all costs, including monthly premiums, deductibles, and any additional fees.

2.   Coverage: Health sharing plans typically have specific guidelines on what expenses they cover. While they may cover many medical expenses, including hospitalization and surgeries, they may not cover certain treatments or pre-existing conditions. It's crucial to review the plan's coverage details carefully to ensure it meets your needs.

3.   Eligibility: Health sharing ministries often have eligibility requirements, which may include adherence to certain religious beliefs, lifestyle restrictions (such as abstaining from tobacco and alcohol), and sometimes even geographic limitations. Make sure you qualify for membership before considering this option.

4.   Regulation: Unlike traditional health insurance, health sharing plans are not regulated by state insurance departments. This lack of regulation means there may be fewer consumer protections in place, and there's less oversight compared to traditional insurance plans.

5.   Network and Provider Options: Health sharing plans typically do not have networks of doctors or health care providers. Members are often free to choose their healthcare providers, which can be appealing for some individuals who want more flexibility in their healthcare choices.

6.   Risk Pooling: Unlike traditional insurance, where risk is spread across a large pool of policyholders, health sharing plans involve sharing medical expenses directly among members. This can introduce some uncertainty, as there's no guarantee that there will be enough funds available to cover all medical expenses.  Use a well know, expert recommended plan.

7.   Religious or Ethical Considerations: Some individuals are drawn to health sharing plans because they align with their religious or ethical beliefs. These plans often promote a sense of community and mutual support among members.

I was once in a ministry position without healthcare insurance.  Options in the healthcare marketplace were too expensive, so we opted to use a health sharing ministry.  We felt limited on some basic care offerings, like checkups. They did however take incredible care of us when I ended up in the ER with a $10,000 bill.  

Health sharing ministries require a little more work than a traditional insurance plan.  Members are considered “non-covered” or “cash patients.”  You have to mention that up front.  This entitles you to decreased costs. You are also encouraged to negotiate for even lower pricing.  It sounds like a hassle but our experience was that it was easy and most providers seem to expect it from “cash patients.”

Health sharing plans can be a good option for certain individuals, particularly those who are relatively healthy, qualify for membership, and are comfortable with the coverage limitations and potential risks. However, it's essential to carefully evaluate the plan's costs, coverage, eligibility requirements, and other factors before making a decision.

Consulting with a financial advisor or healthcare expert can also help you determine if a health sharing plan is the right choice for you.

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