Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Explained
Before committing yourself to the process of finding a Christian cost-sharing plan, let’s make sure it is the right kind of medical coverage for you. A Christian cost-sharing plan, or Christian health plan, may fit your health care needs and priorities – or it may not. Cost sharing has many key differences from traditional health insurance and everyone deserves to be aware of them before making a healthcare decision suited to their life.
What is a Christian Cost-Sharing Plan?
First up, a definition. What exactly is a Christian cost-sharing plan? Christian cost-sharing healthcare plans, also referred to as health-shares, are a form of cooperative. They are commonly faith-based and tied to a certain religious ministry. Each member of the health-share ministry agrees to cover a certain amount of each other’s medical costs in order to lower all of their out of pocket costs. The general premise of a health-share plan is a lot like insurance. The logistics function differently though;Christian cost-sharing programs operate as private cooperatives so they do not have to abide by the same rules as traditional health insurance.
How Do Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Work?
Individuals and families pay a monthly “sharing amount” (similar to a monthly insurance payment) and the cooperative pools its members’ money in order to cover the group’s medical costs. Like traditional insurance, if you need money for a medical expense, you make a claim through the Christian cost-sharing group.
How Do Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Compare to Traditional Health Insurance?
The most significant difference between health-shares and traditional health insurance is that health-shares are private and are not subject to legal regulations set for health insurance. Overall, this key difference means that members of cost-share plans do not have as much legal protection. The ministries/groups are not subject to financial or regulatory oversight, able to make their own rules about who to accept and what is covered.
Cost-shares are not required to cover anything they do not endorse or deem necessary. Wellness care and preventative care may not be covered in Christian cost-sharing plans – so make sure the plan you choose covers anything you need. This means health-shares can also deny any claim due to their beliefs, religious or otherwise. They are not obligated to keep faith and opinions out of decisions, unlike traditional health insurance. Certain treatments and prescriptions can be denied based on the health-share ministry’s beliefs. For example, birth control methods, which are often free with traditional insurance options might not be covered at all by some cost-sharing groups.
Health-shares can also enforce lifestyle requirements, though traditional insurance providers cannot. Lifestyle requirements can be part of your contract, and the group can deny coverage if your medical issue stems from breaking contractual obligations. A requirement might be something physical, like a weekly fitness standard, or consumption based, like a limit on tobacco use. Finally, you do not necessarily have to have certain spiritual beliefs, but sometimes cost-share plans will require a statement of faith upon acceptance.
Health-shares are able to “cap” your total coverage. Christian cost-sharing programs can introduce yearly coverage limits or lifetime limits, unlike traditional health insurance.
Last, members cannot use an HSA (healthcare savings accounts) with a health-sharing plan, even though they can be used with an Affordable Care Act insurance plan.
What Does the Pricing of Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Look Like?
Health-shares typically have a lower monthly payment than traditional health insurance. This low financial impact can be ideal if your needs are covered. If you are comfortable with the coverage, Christian cost-sharing plans can be a great way to save money on healthcare.
Like traditional health insurance, not all member’s payments will be equal. Factors such as income and physical health may play a role in determining your monthly “sharing amount.”
Also, as previously mentioned, you will not be able to use an HSA with a Christian cost-sharing plan.
How Do Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Affect Those With Preexisting Conditions?
Health-shares do not have to accept individuals with preexisting conditions. Depending on the Christian cost-sharing program, people with preexisting conditions may be turned away, or required to pay costs related to a preexisting condition out of pocket. There are also groups that will begin to pay for preexisting condition treatments once they have been a member for a certain amount of time.
In general, it is good to be aware that with a cost-share plan, preexisting conditions may not be covered with a Christian cost-sharing program, but it will ultimately depend on the one you choose. If you have a preexisting condition, cost-sharing may not provide the best coverage for you.
Who Are Christian Cost-Sharing Plans Best For?
Christian cost-sharing plans are best for individuals and families who cannot afford traditional health insurance. They are a great, low-cost medical care option for those who need health coverage, but are not in a place to spend extra money on an ASA insurance plan.
Health-shares are ideal for healthy individuals with low healthcare needs. It is important that each individual decides on their own priorities, but people who live an active, healthy lifestyle with little to no regular medical needs might find a plan like this appealing.
Christian cost-sharing plans are good for people who want to share their expenses with like-minded people. Cost-sharing plans are a way to build community while keeping health coverage costs low. Health-shares bring faith into healthcare, so if faith and community are high on your priority list, a cost-sharing plan may be right for you.