The health insurance mandate is here. Starting in 2014 every American family will be required to carry health insurance or face a tax penalty. There are some exemptions for financial hardships, but the big one for Christians is the ability to opt out with a medical expense sharing plan. I wrote a comprehensive article on the topic of Christian health insurance alternatives which led me on my own journey of changing how I buy health insurance.
Now I pay about $120 monthly for my 'share' in a Christian medical sharing group based out of Melbourne, Florida (the company I am with is listed in my prior article). I have agreed to be responsible for the first $10,000 of my medical expenses to get this super low rate. There are other plans with lower 'deductible' levels down to about $1,250, which would raise my monthly share to about $250 (keep in mind that these are my rates and what you would pay may be less or more based on your age and health history).
If you have employer provided health insurance, none of this may affect you at all, but for the self employed and those uninsured for other reasons, there are some major changes coming.
The tax penalty (for those without insurance) will begin to be phased in modestly in 2014 and full phased in by 2016. Here is an estimate of what your tax penalties may be in 2016 (per family based on overall family income).
- Less than $9,500 income = $0
- $9,500 - $37,000 income = $695
- $50,000 income = $1,000
- $75,000 income = $1,600
- $100,000 income = $2,250
- $125,000 income = $2,900
- $150,000 income = $3,500
- $175,000 income = $4,100
- $200,000 income = $4,700
(source: Business Insider)
Dealing With Pre-Existing Conditions
The Christian Medical sharing organizations are not a panacea for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Much like with traditional health insurance, you will not be able to simply join one of these groups and have them pick up the expenses for an already existing medical condition. There is good news for you, however, in the ObamaCare plan. Those with pre-existing medical conditions will be able to purchase health insurance without pre-existing medical conditions being excluded. While this is a real positive for those in such circumstances, the financial cost of this will be shared by everyone else in the health insurance marketplace.
Christian Medical Sharing Cost vs. Traditional Health Insurance
It is my strong belief that there will be an ever widening gap between the cost of traditional health insurance and Christian medical sharing plans. The general health insurance market will be forced to absorb those with pre-existing conditions and unhealthy lifestyles. Christian medical sharing plans require their members to live healthy lifestyles, abstain from tobacco, and prohibit the abuse of alcohol or drugs. The organization I signed up with requires that you maintain a healthy weight, which required me to lose about 20 pounds (something I need to do anyway, but this gave me a good reason to be motivated to do so).
My Experience With Christian Medical Sharing
I am very impressed with this option and although I have not had a claim yet, I have confidence in how the system works. As a member, I receive regular reports of how the money I am paying in is going to pay fellow Christians' medical bills. My confidence was boosted even more when they required me to provide them full access to my medical records, go through a physical, and complete an exhaustive medical questionnaire. This was as thorough, possibly even more thorough of a review, than any health insurance company has ever put me through. The importance of this can not be understated as the viability of a program like this is tied to following 'insurance like' standards when setting rates and becoming aware of pre-existing medical conditions of prospective members.
Christian medical expense sharing is likely to become even more popular once the cost of traditional health insurance begins to climb. The great news is that you can legally avoid the tax fines by participating in one of these plans.
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)