This is NOT a sponsored post. However, all links to Medi-Share are referral links. I only suggest products that I believe in but note that we are still very new consumers of Medi-Share. This is my honest opinion so far and I will be making updates throughout the year.
Health insurance is a touchy subject and everyone has a different point of view depending on their own life experience. For us, health insurance became a thorn in our side many years ago when I left a corporate job with benefits for a life of self-employment.
When we were on the group health plan through my job, health insurance was fairly straightforward and affordable. The thorniness came when I left that corporate career and our only option was to buy an individual policy.
While self-employment brought us a lot of flexibility and possibilities, we were on the hook for finding and buying our own health insurance. Due to its high costs, it became less a product that we used for our medical needs and more of something that protected us from financial ruin over the years. We were basically buying catastrophic insurance.
At the end of 2016, our finances were affected in such a dramatic way by health insurance that my husband and I made a very deliberate decision to leave the traditional model for a very non-traditional and somewhat unknown option: health cost-sharing ministry.
To see all of the numbers that led us to this decision, I encourage you to read part 1:
In November of 2016, we were facing a hefty health insurance premium increase for 2017 that was more than twice what we paid in 2016. In fact, the new monthly premium was going to be more than our mortgage payment. The new monthly payment would have left us ‘insurance poor’.
On top of that bombshell discovery, we realized the insurance plans that were being offered to us were NOT compatible with a health savings account, a tax-deductible savings vehicle offered to those with high deductible health plans. We had a few sleepless nights in November and I truly felt betrayed by the health exchange and insurance companies.
During that time, we kept hearing about health cost-sharing ministries from friends, online articles popping up on my Facebook timeline, and on radio ads.
An affordable, biblical alternative to health insurance.
It all sounded too good to be true and such a foreign concept, but we were facing unrealistic insurance premiums and costs, maybe this was the answer to our prayers.
What is a health cost-sharing ministry?
In simple terms, (and from Wikipedia), “a health cost sharing ministry is an organization that facilitates sharing of health care costs among individual members, in the United States, who have common ethical or religious beliefs.”
There are 4 main health sharing ministries in the U.S. and each one is run differently. My husband and I reviewed all 4, but we felt the most comfortable with Medi-Share.
Medi-share is a biblical company where Christians share their financial resources to pay each other’s medical expenses and healthcare burdens. Operating since 1993, Medi-Share members have shared and discounted more than $1.4 billion in medical bills.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Acts 2:44-45
Medi-Share is NOT insurance, but we will not be fined by the government for not having insurance. Medi-Share can be used as a substitute to satisfy the federal mandate requiring “applicable individuals” to maintain “minimum essential insurance coverage”. (At least at the time this publishes. The future of health insurance continues to be up in the air.)
How Medi-Share Works
There are a few requirements to enroll in Medi-Share:
- Each member must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and profess to a Statement of Faith to join.
- They must also agree to not use tobacco and illegal drugs, abuse legal drugs, or have sex outside of traditional Christian marriage.
- There is an online application and health history questionnaire, along with a one-time application fee of $50. You will also be asked to complete the Testimony & Commitment form, which includes the Statement of Faith and lifestyle commitments.
Medi-Share is NOT insurance, but there is an “annual household portion” or AHP that sounds similar to a deductible in the sense that you are responsible for your eligible medical bills up to the AHP. Once the AHP is met, ALL eligible bills will be published for sharing for the entire household and paid using other members’ shares. The AHP options are: $500 (singles only), $1,250, $2,500, $3,750, $5,000, $7,500 or $10,000.
A monthly cost also called a share, is calculated based on the AHP you choose, the age of the oldest person in the family, and the number of family members. Each month, that monthly share is matched with other members’ eligible medical bills and used to pay their bills.
Medi-Share utilizes the preferred provider network known as, PHCS. Using doctors in this network allows you to obtain discounts on eligible medical care. I highly recommend checking this list of doctors when you’re making a decision if Medi-Share is right for you. Fortunately, our new doctor in 2016 that we really like is a participating provider in this network.
You will receive an ID card to show providers that is similar to an insurance card. The provider submits the bill for processing and discounting, much like the traditional insurance process. We chose a high Annual Household Portion, so the submitted eligible medical bills will be subtracted from our AHP.
Through a secure online portal, Medi-Share coordinates the direct sharing of medical costs between members. You do not send funds directly to other members. You must open a specific account through America’s Christian Credit Union that will only be used for your Medi-Share deposits and transfers. You will sign a Limited Power of Attorney giving Med-Share access to handle transfers. Your monthly share is automatically deposited into this account and Medi-Share transfers the funds out of the account to cover other members’ needs.
- Health Incentive – You can save up to 20% on your monthly share just by living a healthy lifestyle! To qualify for this Health Incentive, both the head of household and spouse (if applicable) must each fill out an online Healthy Lifestyle Assessment. You must re-apply every year.
- Telehealth Access – Talk to a doctor anytime from anywhere at no cost to you! Virtual doctor visits are a great option for common, non-emergency ailments like colds, flu, or rashes
- Dental and Vision Discounts – Save up to 60% on vision and dental needs by using the Dental, Vision and More savings card.
- Medi-Share offers flexible options for everyone from individuals, couples, single-parent families, and families of three or more. There is also a program option for Seniors* on Medicare.
I pulled a few highlights directly from their website, but you must read Medi-Share’s Guidelines thoroughly for more information on pre-existing rules, eligible & ineligible medical conditions and procedures, and other important details.
1) “Routine care is not eligible for sharing, however, if your provider is with PHCS you should present your ID card and have them bill Medi-Share to possibly receive discounts on your routine services. There are exceptions for well-baby care.” Check the Medi-Share Guidelines for more details.
2) “The provider fee is $35 for each office or hospital visit, or $135 for every emergency room visit. This is not a copay, but an initial payment applied toward the total office visit charges. It is the Member’s responsibility to pay the applicable provider fee at the time of service or upon being billed by the provider at a later time. The provider fee does not count toward the AHP and continues to be applied even after the AHP is met.” Check the Medi-Share Guidelines for more details.
3) “Pregnant Members with an Annual Household Portion of $1,250 or higher who have faithfully shared from the month of conception through the month of delivery are eligible for maternity sharing. To be eligible, delivery must be performed by one of the following: Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathy, Midwife who is properly licensed, certified and/or registered in the state of delivery as required by state law.” Check the Medi-Share Guidelines for more details.
4) “Prescription costs: the cost of CMS or FDA approved testing, treatments, and up to six months of FDA approved prescription drugs per eligible condition will be considered for sharing. Medi-Share members can save on most prescriptions by presenting their Medi-Share card at participating pharmacies. Find the pharmacies near you and compare your prescription prices at MyRxPrice.com.” Check the Medi-Share Guidelines for more details.
5) “Your monthly share payment is not deductible for federal income tax purposes as a charitable donation or as a medical expense. Since there is a strong possibility that your medical expenses will get shared by another Member, you cannot deduct your share as a charitable donation, even though Christian Care Ministry is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit ministry. Your share payment is not tax-deductible as an insurance expense because Medi-Share is not insurance.”
Why we chose Medi-Share:
We reviewed other health sharing ministries and what drew us to Medi-Share was the fact that it operates much like an insurance company, even though it is NOT health insurance. We received ID cards to give to providers so they can submit our bills to Medi-Share for discounts and processing and we hope to see significant savings by using doctors in the preferred providers’ network. With other sharing ministries, the member does a lot of the price negotiating, and to be honest, that seemed like a lot of work. Medi-Share appears to be easy to use, but time will tell, and I will be sure to update you on its functionality.
How Medi-Share Will Affect our Finances:
We were facing monthly health insurance premium options that ranged from $1360 – $1700, and a deductible of $10k or higher for 2017. We simply could not afford health insurance any longer.
We are a fairly healthy family and have used on average $2000 of our deductible each year under traditional health insurance. We chose the $10,000 AHP with Medi-Share to keep our monthly expenses low. Our monthly share started at $343, but we were approved for the Health Incentive and our monthly share was reduced to $282/month.
Beginning in January 2017, we are setting aside $520 a month into a separate regular savings account to pay for upcoming health expenses. Remember, we are on the hook for the first $10k of our medical costs. This number is the difference between our 2016 monthly premium of $800 and our new Medi-Share monthly fee of $282.
Unfortunately, we are losing some significant tax benefits. Like I mentioned several times, Medi-Share is not health insurance, therefore, our monthly payment is not tax-deductible, and we can no longer contribute to a tax-deductible health savings account. We still have funds in our HSA from previous years, so we will use that account for our medical expenses until it’s depleted before we start using the funds in our new regular savings account designated for health expenses.
I ran some numbers with our accountant. We compared what our out-of-pocket expenses would have been with our traditional health insurance options (that I outlined in the first post) less the tax benefits to our new out-of-pocket projections from Medi-Share. If we maintain our good health like in recent years, we anticipate that our out-of-pocket will be considerably less this year than in years past even with the lack of tax benefits.
Only time will tell and in the meantime, our goal is to lead a healthy lifestyle to hopefully keep our medical expenses as low as possible.
My Final Thoughts:
We still have much to learn with Medi-Share. We have had one illness so far this year. We took a daughter to an urgent care because her illness started over a weekend and I was concerned it was strep. She was out of school for 4 days, so I had to take her to her doctor for a school excuse. Both the urgent care and our doctor are preferred providers and on both occasions, we handed over our ID card without any questions from the staff. We paid the $35 provider fee that I outlined above at the doctor’s office. I went into our Medi-Share online account at the time I was writing this post and both bills are still pending. I will update as soon as I receive anything. I’m kinda curious myself!
If Medi-Share sounds intriguing to you, enter your information into the Share Amount Calculator to check your AHP options and monthly share prices.
Your next step is to carefully read the entire website, write down all of your questions, and call their 800 number to speak to a customer service rep directly. We spoke to them multiple times before making a final decision. They were very helpful and extremely friendly, and they offer to pray for you before you get off the line. There is something very peaceful about having a stranger pray over you.
Also, make a request online for additional information to be mailed to you. These resources were very helpful.
I also recommend that you research the other 3 health sharing ministries. Google it, you’ll find them. They all function very differently and you will need to determine if there are any rules regarding your state as some of these plans (Medi-Share included) are not offered in certain states.
I will be providing updates throughout the year on our experience with Medi-Share:
- Our Medi-Share experience – One year later.
- Update: September 2017 – We hit our Annual Household Portion.
Are you a member of health cost-sharing ministry? If so, which one? What has your experience been like? Why did you choose the ministry that you went with? Or, maybe this is a new concept to you. Is this something that you could use? Share your experience in the comments.
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. However, all links to Medi-Share are my referral links. All members receive a referral link upon becoming a member. I only suggest products that I believe in. Please note that we are still very new consumers of Medi-Share, but this is my honest opinion.