Healthshare programs are affordable healthcare alternatives that are growing in popularity — but they aren’t health insurance and aren’t regulated in the same way. This distinction leads to frequent questions of how healthshares work and gives birth to the occasional myth or two.

Let’s pull back the curtain and debunk a few myths about healthcare cost-sharing programs.

Myth #1: Healthshares Work Like Insurance

There are often some similarities between a healthshare program and traditional health insurance, but healthshares are not insurance. Healthshares come with some additional benefits, like PPO networks and often lower monthly costs — but are also based on a community of shared beliefs.

Some healthshares are non-denominational and all are non-profit 501(c) organizations. Contributions from healthshare members go toward healthcare costs of other members — and your own.

Myth #2: Healthshare Programs Aren’t Regulated

A healthshare isn’t insurance — so it isn’t regulated by individual state insurance laws and regulations. However, healthshare programs are regulated as charities, subject to regulations for charities in each state as well as regulations for 501(c) charities with the Internal Revenue Service.

Additionally, because healthshares are comprised of communities of like-minded people, many utilize Boards of Directors who are members of the healthshare program themselves. Some healthshares even take votes from members of the program on proposed policy changes.

Myth #3 Healthshares Shift Costs to Other Members

Health cost-sharing programs, also sometimes called Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs), share healthcare costs for individuals across their membership. There are a few different approaches in how to share costs most effectively, with some of the most advanced healthshare programs closely resembling traditional healthcare coverage — but providing coverage more affordably and with greater freedom of choice.

Healthshares utilize contributions instead of insurance premiums to provide coverage for members. Typically, members are responsible for part of the payment for some healthcare services, while other services are free — much like a traditional healthcare plan.

Member Sharing Responsibility Amounts (MSRA) for healthshares work in a similar way to deductibles with health insurance. Healthshares don’t provide free rides, but they do provide a legal, innovative, and cost-saving alternative to health insurance.

Is a Healthshare Program Right for You?

It’s easy to focus on the positives for health cost-sharing programs — but in truth, a healthshare may or may not be the best choice for you or your family. Everyone’s situation is unique. However, in many cases, the only thing keeping more people from joining a healthshare is simply awareness — along with a few lingering questions — and perhaps a few misleading myths.

Healthshare programs are based on a community of shared beliefs. Some healthshares are non-denominational and focus their statement of beliefs around support for your fellow man and freedom to govern your own healthcare choices.

Some healthshares offer PPO networks, as opposed to less-desirable HMOs — which are now commonly used by traditional health insurance providers. With better provider networks, lower monthly costs, and a legal way to opt out of Obamacare, a healthshare program might be just what you’ve been looking for.