What is a HealthShare?
Since the 1980s, HealthShares programs have grown as a low-cost alternative to health insurance. A HealthShare is a group of people who have agreed to help with each other’s medical costs.
Most healthcare sharing ministries operate through monthly contributions, which are then distributed to people who need help paying medical bills. Similar to an insurance deductible, HealthShare programs generally have an unshared amount that an individual is responsible for paying before sharing begins.
However, while insurance companies usually pay a percentage of medical costs after the deductible, some HealthShares will share up to 100% of medical expenses after the initial member responsibility amount is paid. The maximum shareable amount varies between health-sharing ministries, but many have high or even unlimited sharing programs.
What is the difference between a HealthShare and health insurance?
Unlike health insurance plans, the majority of HealthShares are nonprofit organizations, dedicated to helping members with their medical expenses. Although the original healthcare sharing organizations and ministries were founded on Christian principles, many health sharing programs today have moved beyond this to focus on a community of giving that transcends religious boundaries.
However, the community-driven, faith-based nature of HealthShares means that each has its own member requirements, making it important to choose a sharing ministry that coincides with your values and lifestyle preferences.
How do HealthShares work?
A HealthShare operates under a different set of rules than traditional health insurance plans, and many are exempt from state laws that normally govern health insurance. For more information on the laws for your state, click here.
However, their monthly contributions are often far lower than insurance premiums, making them a smart choice for many individuals. For this reason, understanding exactly what benefits healthcare sharing offers, what types of expenses are shared, what sharing limits may apply, who is eligible, and how these health sharing programs will compare to your current healthcare plan is crucial.
Because healthcare sharing programs are not insurance, they are never required to share in any expenses. For example, because most ministries are rooted in Christian beliefs, medical costs related to drug abuse, abortion, maternity costs out of wedlock, and injury resulting from illegal activities, are often not shareable.
Generally, members of the HealthShare come together to decide what types of medical needs align with their shared beliefs and which they are willing to include in their share plan. Eligible expenses are usually outlined in the ministry’s individual member guidelines. If your lifestyle is not consistent with the values outlined by the specific HealthShare you are interested in, then it is likely not a good fit.
Who can join a HealthShare?
The short answer to the question of who is eligible to join a HealthShare is “it depends.” Each healthcare sharing program has its own requirements, offers different benefits, and its strictness varies dramatically.
For example, members of Samaritan Ministries must be a part of a Christian denomination (with some denominations excluded) and need to attend worship services at least three out of four weeks per month. They must abstain from sexual activity outside of “traditional Biblical marriage,” abstain from drug and tobacco use, and agree to a statement of faith. Their adherence to these guidelines must be confirmed by a religious official and renewed yearly.
On the other end of the spectrum, Zion Health accepts people of all faiths. They still ask individuals to agree to their principles, which include a commitment to act ethically, practice good health measures, abstain from illegal drugs, and care for their family and community.
How do I know which HealthShare to choose?
Choosing a healthcare sharing organization to join is a more personal decision than choosing a health insurance company. Prospective members should keep in mind that HealthShares are rooted in religious beliefs, even those that do not require a religious affiliation. These beliefs influence organizational values and practices, so individuals who have lifestyles contrary to such values or who object to religious organizations may not find the community they seek within the HealthShare industry.
Members with strong religious beliefs often find fulfillment in being part of a community that shares their faith. These members can serve their health sharing community by sharing each other’s costs. Those who already live a lifestyle that aligns with the biblical and moral principles required by their chosen ministry can know that others within their community have similar values, and their contributions are going toward causes with which they morally agree.
Others may find that their beliefs and lifestyles differ from those required by a specific healthcare sharing provider, especially those with strict requirements. To some, these HealthShares may feel exclusionary, and the fact is that membership requirements are not regulated the same way as insurance companies. Unlike insurance, however, most healthcare sharing providers will not raise rates or turn members away for pre-existing conditions.
Thorough research is important to ensure that you choose an organization that is right for you. Choosing the wrong ministry can sometimes result in a revoked membership or healthcare costs that are not shareable. HealthShare Guide is here to make this process as simple as possible and to help you navigate many of the complex concerns you may have related to your HealthShare membership.