HealthShares have grown in popularity in recent years, spurred by the affordable care act and rising healthcare costs. Major HealthShares have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of members, and share millions of dollars of their members’ eligible medical expenses.
Modern HealthShares, also known as health care sharing ministries (HCSM), are nonprofit organizations that facilitate medical cost sharing communities, which share in fellow members’ eligible medical expenses. With roots in decades-old religious communities that pool their resources to help members of their parish in need, HealthShares are a quality alternative to traditional health insurance.
Continue reading to discover more about what a HealthShare is and what it is not.
HealthShares are affordable
One of the great advantages HealthShare memberships can provide is their affordability. HealthShares save members an average of 40% compared to traditional health insurance plans, and those savings are especially significant for larger families.
Depending on the HealthShare, memberships can be provided for a variety of households: single members, couples, couples with dependent children, single parents with dependent children, or in some cases even children without the participation of their parents.
In general, memberships start at around $100-$150 per month for one person, and $300-$500 for a family of four. Memberships vary in price depending on personal responsibility amounts, but these affordable price tags are helping members collectively save over a billion dollars a year in medical expenses.
HealthShares are not strictly religious
Although HealthShares got their start from religious communities, not all HealthShares have religious requirements for membership, or ask that their members attest to a particular statement of beliefs. There are some HealthShares, like Sedera or Zion HealthShare, with secular membership requirements, that accept members so long as they are willing to agree to their principles of membership.
For members looking for a religious sharing community, there are a variety of reputable options to choose from. Many HealthShares are designed to cater to specific faiths or denominations, and their guidelines, and sharing, more closely align with those beliefs.
HealthShares are medical cost sharing communities
HealthShares are not for-profit companies; rather, they are medical cost sharing communities facilitated by nonprofit organizations. Members pay monthly contributions to take part in one of these medical cost sharing communities. The main goal of HealthShares is to pool the resources of their members to make healthcare more affordable. This means taking members’ monthly contributions and using them to pay for eligible medical expenses incurred by the community.
While a small portion of the monthly contributions are used by the nonprofit facilitator for administrative costs, the majority of funds are used to help someone in need. The primary purpose of a HealthShare is to ease the financial burden of their members placed on them by the modern healthcare system.
Each HealthShare has their own membership requirements. Members must attest to a code of ethical or religious beliefs, pledge to live a healthy lifestyle, and agree to follow their community’s rules. Some HealthShares restrict membership to those from a particular faith or denomination.
HealthShares are not insurance
Although HealthShares can be an affordable, quality alternative to traditional health insurance, it is important to remember that HealthShare memberships are not insurance policies, and HealthShares are not insurance companies. Because HealthShares are not insurance, they are not legally obligated to share all members’ medical expenses.
To keep monthly contribution amounts affordable for their members, and because HealthShare members are a monthly, rather than annual commitment, there are restrictions on what can be shared. There are waiting periods and sharing limits placed on certain conditions, treatments, and services.
HealthShares detail which medical expenses are ineligible for sharing in their membership guidelines. Typically, eligible expenses will exclude elective procedures, birth control, and fertility treatments. In general, HealthShares will not share in expenses related to pre-existing conditions during the first year of membership.
For more information, read this article on the pros and cons of being a HealthShare member.
HealthShares are freeing
HealthShare membership can free members from both financial burden and unnecessary worry. By specializing in sharing large medical expenses that would normally be financially burdensome, HealthShares help reduce their members’ risk of going bankrupt as a result of major medical needs. Moreover, this applies to all members who take part in the same membership, whether it be a single member, parent, or dependent.
Because of their ability to share large medical expenses, HealthShares can provide welcome security and peace of mind for their members in the event of a medical emergency. Additionally, they may share in smaller eligible medical expenses, so long as they exceed the personal responsibility amount and do not exceed any applicable sharing limits.
HealthShares are increasingly moving away from the use of provider networks, instead opting for their members’ ability to choose their own providers without worrying about incurring out-of-network penalties. This is especially relevant for members who live in rural areas or who frequently travel. Since HealthShare members are able to seek care out of state, and in some cases out of country, the increased flexibility is a welcome feature.
HealthShares can be an affordable, effective part of any healthcare plan. Not all HealthShares are the same: many have different policies when it comes to sharing pre-existing conditions, maternity, preventive care, sharing limits, and membership requirements. Because of this, it is important to research options to find the right fit. But the work is worth it, as finding the right HealthShare can make all the difference.