It is growing in popularity among Christians and presents a biblical and innovative way to manage medical expenses. It is called ‘Christian healthcare sharing’ and they are emphatic in pointing out that it is not insurance. The idea is simple; Christians join the group and agree to make monthly contributions. The money is pooled and used to pay the eligible medical expenses of members. Even though these programs are not insurance, they say that their sharing arrangement meets the requirements of the new health insurance mandate (ObamaCare).
The major players:
Christian Care Ministry, also known as Medi-Share (My top recommendation)
(*** I am now a member of this plan since Sept 1, 2012)
ChristianCare Ministries On Jim Paris Live
Is the devil in the details?
These plans seem to be very well organized with reasonable rules and restrictions in place. This is what gave me a great deal of confidence after reviewing them. For example, they do not allow you to receive benefits for pre-existing conditions. Not very Christian? Well, this would not only be foolish but would make these plans unsustainable. Other common sense limitations such as a provision that would not pay your medical expenses if your injury was due to the abuse of alcohol or drugs, make the plan sensible. Additionally, smokers are not eligible and the plans do not cover abortion or same sex couples.
State regulators appear to really have an issue with these programs. It seems like the plans are facing ongoing legal battles with regulators. From what I have read, state regulators have had limited success in trying to shut the plans down. The issue seems to be that since the programs are not officially considered insurance (and do not represent that they are), they do not have to live up to the requirements of an insurance company. On example is financial reserves. A bona-fide insurance company would be required to demonstrate that they have a reasonable amount of money on hand to pay claims. This is not required of Christian medical expense sharing groups.
There is also the issue of denial of claims. While I was not able to find any significant volume of complaints against these organizations, I did find some isolated examples that were concerning.
I also found quite a lot of very positive comments from people who have used these plans and highly endorse them. There is no shortage of stories of very happy members of these groups. Christian Care Ministry and Christian Healthcare Ministries both have A+ ratings with the Better Business Bureau, but Samaritan Ministries has just a Rating of a C. In fairness to Samaritan, the BBB says that they have no complaints on record against their organization. The rating seems to be strictly linked to the organization facing legal action from regulators.
These plans appear to provide a savings of 30 to 50% compared to traditional health insurance. They also seem especially suited for the self-employed or small business that might have a tough time negotiating a decent rate for group coverage. Another group embracing these plans are individuals in ministry who many times don't have affordable access to group insurance.
Update September 1, 2012 -
I have officially joined ChristianCare Ministry and dropped off of my wife's employer provided plan.
Update July 2013 -
We have removed our children from my wife's employer provided plan and added them to my plan with ChristianCare as well.
We have also sent e mails inviting all three of the organizations mentioned in this article to offer additional information in the comment area of this page.
Helping you make the most of God’s money!