Regardless of politics, most of us can agree that the health care system in America was not fixed by Obamacare. What’s in place now doesn’t reduce overall healthcare costs or appropriately regulate an out-of-control medical and pharmaceutical industry.
With average premiums jumping another 25% or more in most of the country in 2018, the ACA in its current form just does not work to save all Americans money while providing quality care. Unfortunately, neither do the numerous repeal and replace programs proposed. Their main weakness: they still base their system around the dysfunctional health insurance market.
Fortunately, some have already found an alternative way to access comprehensive, lower-cost medical care—one that cuts out the bloated insurance industry entirely. Interested? I know I was!
Health Care Sharing Ministries: How They Work
Health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) are groups with similar religious or ethical beliefs who agree to share members’ health care costs. The structure is similar to high-risk pools. HCSMs work directly with medical care and pharmaceutical providers to negotiate costs and reduce their impact on members. Most ministries are attached to Christian organizations.
Advantages of HCSMs Over Traditional Insurance
Costs within an HCSM are often less expensive than health insurance premiums. A 2017 eHealth study reveals the average monthly family plan cost under a typical HCSM was about $300 less per month than households insured under the ACA. That is $3,600 per year.
HCSMs are exempt from many of the mandates placed on insurance holders through Obamacare. For instance, many do not pay for expenses related to drug or alcohol abuse or for birth control.
Provider networks have fewer limits on them, allowing members to choose their doctors. This lets you keep your current doctor and can be crucial if you develop an illness requiring specialized care.
Limitations of HCSMs
Most (but not all) ministries are Christian only, and many will only accept evangelicals. Unless you are a practicing Christian of an accepted sect, you cannot join some programs.
Many ministries have limitations on pre-existing conditions. If you have a chronic illness, you may not qualify. Many ministries have recently relaxed this limitation, but you will need to check.
Currently, Obamacare only exempts ministries created before 2000. For healthshares to be available to more people, a greater variety must exist. To make the system truly inclusive, Congress needs to change the law to allow healthshare programs for non-Christians, disabled people, and others to be formed.
A Workable Alternative
While government factions fight over models that still center on a corrupt insurance industry, Americans need workable health care coverage now. HCSMs have already proven their value and might be the model we’re looking for. But their benefit can only spread to all Americans if legislation is changed to give the model room to grow.