Healthshare programs are becoming more popular as an alternative to health insurance. But it is important to remember that they are not traditional insurance, and they do not have an insurance company guaranteeing payment of claims. Healthcare sharing ministries are non-profit organizations that facilitate the sharing of qualifying medical expenses among its members. Healthshare procedures vary by ministry—in some, you send your payments directly to other members, while in others, members never have contact with one another.

So, how can you trust other members—strangers, people likely from another state you have never met before—to help pay for your medical needs when your health is so important?

Healthcare sharing ministries are not regulated like insurance

Contrary to popular opinion, healthcare sharing ministries are indeed regulated, just not the same as insurance. Healthshare programs are regulated by their respective states as charity organizations, as well as by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as nonprofit organizations. If fraud would happen, the appropriate regulators would quickly become involved.

In addition, the ministries are regulated by members themselves. For example, the majority of those serving on the board for Samaritan Ministries International are members. Samaritan Ministries International also has the equivalent to the right to jury of your peers to further protect members. If dissatisfied with any decision, members can appeal to a panel of 13 randomly chosen members. Apparently, this has happened only four times in the past.

Healthcare sharing ministries operate under religious faith

The core tenant of healthcare programs is religiously based. Christian denominations are the most common. People who share the same basic beliefs come together to help share the financial burden of medical expenses. These Christians believe it is their duty to help those in need and trust that their needs will be met in turn.

This trust fosters an atmosphere of open-hearted caring. In fact, in these ministries, members often pray for one another and offer support, crying and rejoicing together in all life events. These ministries make a community, not just healthcare coverage.

Healthcare sharing ministries have been around for decades

Under federal law, only healthshare organizations that have been in existence since at least 1999 can offer its members a complete exemption from the mandates under Obamacare. Hundreds of millions of dollars in medical expenses have been shared among health care sharing programs so far, and these plans continue to grow. When making the decision of what provides the best healthcare coverage, there are many reasons to feel confident about  investing your money in a healthcare sharing plan.

You do not have to stay shackled to traditional insurance because it seems safer and more regulated. Healthcare sharing ministries offer a supportive community of like-minded people, full of better choice, much lower costs, and more autonomy.