Christian Health Insurance

Why is it so difficult in this country of ours (United States) to get healthcare that is reasonable?!?

And why is it that affordable healthcare can be provided by alternative “Christian” or non-denominational organizations, but no one else?

Well… that is why I am here– to give you an idea of what I have gone through with this insurance thing.

I am now almost 33 years old and since I was 27, I have been off my parents insurance.  Now, thankfully, I haven’t had any mishaps in my health (and I continue to pray that I don’t), but I think it is time for me to actually have healthcare!

To think that man like myself, a naturopathic/chiropractic physician, wouldn’t have paid for healthcare until now.  As my body gets older (and my mind younger!), I realize that something catastrophic may eventually happen, and it is essential that I have proper healthcare in the case that it happens.

I mean, going through a catastrophic accident, can bankrupt you, and ultimately will if you no assets or extra cash to fall back on.

MY SITUATION

Well, currently, this is my situation – bankruptcy could be possible because of my lack of assets and cash flow.

I was born into a middle-class family with 4 other brothers and sisters.  My father was the only person working full-time.  At that time, I didn’t really understand the value of a dollar or the benefits of saving – or even how to save!

Long story short, when I went into medical school, I had zero debt, but I had zero savings with a beater car. When I got out of school, I had over 300K in education debt (2 medical doctorates), no savings, very little assets, and practically the same beater car. Very little positive change in income occurred in those 6 years of medical school.

With no training or understanding of how to start, let alone run a business, I taught at a community college, worked side jobs as a chiropractor, and eventually traveled overseas with my wife (who also has few assets) to teach English in China. When I returned, I realized that I needed to suck it up and work for someone else, because I was never going to figure this thing out alone!

HEALTHCARE DISCOVERY

Again… long story short, at the end of this year (2016), I knew I needed to have healthcare.  My employers were chipping in, but it wasn’t enough to cover the basic essentials.  At $300 a month, I would get a $7,000 deductible, and even after that was paid, sometimes only 50% of the total cost would be paid after the deductible was met. This was depending upon the plan I chose.

Even if I paid at $700 a month, the deductible was still around $3000 and I would still not get everything covered afterwards… what a predicament!  How could I invest, what I perceived to be a TON of money into a system, that I thought would not work well for my particular situation?  Do I suck it up and just take the huge hit on my income and pray nothing would happen?  Or is there something better?

DISCLAIMER: These are my personal opinions and I try to be as objective as possible.  If I am wrong, let me know and I will change what I have written here.  And generally let me know if you can prove it through personal experience or physical proof, otherwise the information in this blog post will stay the same. Again, I don’t have all the information and it would best for you to call them and ask all the questions I have suggested below, along with your own.

CHRISTIAN HEALTH SHARING

Through my research, I discovered Christian Health Sharing organizations.  I found good ones, bad ones, and ones I wasn’t sure about it.  Below I am going to provide those to you, with my own short opinions on why.

The GOOD ones:

  1. Samaritan
  2. Liberty Health Share

The BAD ones:

  1. Medi-Share

The ones I am NOT sure of:

  1. CHM
  2. Samaritan
  3. Medical Cost Share (MCS)

SAMARITAN – http://samaritanministries.org

This one seems to be the most talked about, the most loved, and the most respected out of the forums that I read. Here are the finer points that I discovered:

  • anything under $300 is paid out-of-pocket no matter what
  • anything over $300 is generally shared (as long as it meets what they believe can be shared)
  • you first have to haggle with the healthcare people to get discounts for the best rate FIRST before having the ministry reimburse you
  • this group is also more strict on what has to be believed to be a part of their group (shared religious beliefs)
  • I believe you need a piece of paper signed saying that you are indeed an active member of church community, signed by your minister/reverend/pastor – this part, I was not so keen on, because my wife and I just moved to Billings, MT and we are NOT members of any church. This is why I was unsure of it. The question is: Can they deny you, just because you don’t believe exactly as they believe? I was not willing to find out.
  • also the payment checks you send in as a part of your “shared” amount goes towards the person that needs it… this is a challenging aspect that was harder for me to accept
  • also limited reimbursement of injuries
  • read more on this one for your own benefit

CHM (Christian Healthcare Ministries) – http://www.chministries.org 

Initially this group I wanted to be a part of because of their prices, but after looking further I discovered these things:

  • plans are variable, but range from $45 to $200 a month – good plans for sure!
  • covers less conditions and situations
  • no alternative treatments covered
  • very open about how they practice their business – a plus! – full PDF can be downloaded (I have noticed the other groups aren’t as open)
  • good plan for members of a church who have a big family and can’t spend as much, but still need coverage
  • been around for 35 years
  • requires you to haggle and gets discounts on your own, but have a tendency to benefit  you later
  • no dental, vision, and wellness visits not covered
  • more restrictive religious covenants – may need a signed statement of faith
  • this group was formerly called CBL (Christian Brotherhood Letter) – this link will show that and lots of mismanagement that was going on with CBL in 2000 before they changed their name to CHM: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-23/membership-for-health-sharing-ministries-soars-under-obamacare
  • limits are less on what they cover, especially if you don’t get the extra add-on “brother’s keeper”
  • can cover midwives
  • do accept pre-existing conditions
  • ONLY Gold plan allows visits from places other than hospitals!
  • Maternity is generally covered more greatly in the Gold plan, and much less in the Silver and Bronze plans
  • many more details not covered – download their PDF to learn more!

LIBERTY HEALTH SHARE – http://www.libertyhealthshare.org

  • $200 is max amount per person per month
  • ~$100 annual fee due every year
  • everything is automated – no haggling for discounts required
  • least deductible offered is at $500 that needs to be paid first before anything is reimbursed
  • dental, vision, wellness visits, alternative care covered at higher premiums at reduced costs
  • difference between premiums is around $20 per person at best
  • less restrictive religious covenants – doesn’t need a signed statement of faith
  • been around for 21 years
  • all around it seems like you get the most for nearly the least
  • the only thing I have heard negative is that they were associated at one time with the Christian Brotherhood Letter which had some financial mishandling. (READ ABOVE)
  • Sharing Guidelines – http://www.libertyhealthshare.org/content/Sharing-Guidelines.pdf

MEDI-SHARE – https://mychristiancare.org/medi-share/

MEDICAL COST SHARING – http://www.medicalcostshare.com/

In all of these groups:

  • there are NO guarantees that they will pay what they say they will pay … sounds like the reality of conventional insurance companies, right?
  • all of them require a Christian belief system to some degree – some more strict than others
  • they are NOT insurance
  • you are NOT a policy holder
  • all are ACA-compliant – meaning they will prevent you from having a tax penalty from the government (check on this for sure by calling them)
  • Some say that any group that is NOT Samaritan may come under fire of the government, but most of these companies have been around for at least 20 years. So we will see!
  • motorcycle accidents are generally NOT covered because they are considered a hobby, unless you use them everyday for transportation and I think you need to be wearing a helmet – you will have to check this!
  • all of them have pros and cons, just like conventional health insurance

Questions that are best to ask the people at these organizations:

  1. How do I know if something is going to be covered?
  2. Where does the money get sent to? The person, organization, and how does it get disbursed?
  3. How do you determine if someone doesn’t fit the beliefs that you think aren’t right? (Signed letter of confirmation, your word, etc.)
  4. How often have you not been able to pay a bill?
  5. What if there is not enough money to pay for a particular bill?
  6. How many members do you have?
  7. Any reimbursement difference between in and out of network doctors, difference in cost, covered or not?
  8. Are motorcycle accidents covered?
  9. How long have you been in business?
  10. Do you offer dental and vision plans?
  11. Are wellness visits and tests included?
  12. Do I have to be a church member of the place I am attending?
  13. Is this plan ACA-compliant?
  14. Do pre-existing conditions make me ineligible?
  15. How do I know I won’t be rejected if a treatment isn’t morally objectionable? – this means if it is considered “morally” wrong, will it not be covered
  16. Are you pre-pay/self-pay before reimbursement is given?
  17. Are natural/alternative treatments provided?
  18. Do you accept all Christian faiths?

MORE RESOURCES

Ultimately… if takes faith in this process for it work.  I have heard many good things about these organizations, and I think this will be my next faithful financial plunge.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that God is always with you.  Whether you believe that or not, does not matter. For the Divine is always watching every single one of us.

God bless and good luck!

Dr. Derek

P.S. If anything is inaccurate, please let me know and I will change it!

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6 thoughts on “Christian Health Insurance”

  1. Hello Dr Derek – a few observations if I may:
    1. I believe many of the instances where you use the term “Health Care” you actually mean “Health Insurance”.

    With that said – “Health Insurance” is a very misunderstood concept, so let me clarify that a little.

    Any insurance (Health, auto, liability, whatever) is intended to protect people from potentially catastrophic financial events. However, when people use the term “health insurance”, what they usually mean is a combination of actual insurance (protection from financially catastrophic events) AND some form of prepaid health care (e.g. only having to pay a copay when they go to the doctor, versus the entire doctor’s bill). So let’s look at your situation (as you described above) for each of these pieces separately.

    First, let’s talk about the “insurance” aspect, as you did specifically mention that. For any insurance to work, the idea is that the catastrophic loss of a few is covered by the premiums of a large group (including the healthy people who do not experience such an event). By purchasing insurance, your premiums are paid in exchange for eliminating the possibility that you suffer one of these catastrophic losses.

    People often lose site of this because the natural inclination is to say “How does this benefit me?” Also, it’s worth noting that often people subconsciously thing “I will never have something like that happen to ME” – obviously, you have acknowledged that something COULD happen to you, and thus have decided to seek out coverage (I think this is a good move) 🙂

    But let’s examine one of your comments from above:
    “there are NO guarantees that they will pay what they say they will pay … sounds like the reality of conventional insurance companies, right?”

    — this is not correct. Conventional insurance companies DO come with a guarantee that they will pay what they say they will pay. But you do have to understand the language of how to talk “what they say they will pay”. Insurance companies are regulated by state departments of insurance (regulations vary by state) – and if you abide by the policy, it is a legally enforceable contract. However, you need to read and understand the policy provisions and restrictions.

    Also – as you mentioned, Health Sharing organizations are not insurance companies; there is not a guarantee that they will pay a claim, and they are often not subject to the same regulation. With that being said, I personally don’t see how this fits the bill of protecting you from bankruptcy. If financial protection is what you are looking for, it seems you would be far better suited to go with an actual insurance policy.

    Now – in terms of the “prepaid health care” aspect things, I would like to reference one of the bullet points you mentioned above:
    “you first have to haggle with the healthcare people to get discounts for the best rate FIRST before having the ministry reimburse you”

    If you purchase a traditional insurance policy, this part is taken care of for you by the insurance company. One of the main functions of the insurance company is to negotiate (haggle) rates with hospitals, doctors, labs, etc., and they carry far more clout as representing thousands of members versus a one off haggling done by a single patient. In many cases, insurance companies have negotiated rates down to 50% or less of what health care providers bill. If you don’t have insurance, you don’t get those rates.

    Anyway – I have probably overstayed my welcome in your comment section, but I would be happy to discuss the topic more if you have any questions where I might be able to help. Thanks, and good luck.

    1. CA –

      You make some great points! I will definitely change those aspects that make sense to change – such as some of the terminology.

      4th large paragraph about insurance guarantees:
      It seems like you have already proven my point! haha. Based upon one’s knowledge of their insurance company’s policies, their claims may be rejected or accepted. As a both a chiropractor and a naturopath, our claims are OFTEN rejected by many different insurance companies. AND I have had quite a few clients that have had their claims rejected. So I think my comment was both prudent and correct, but from a different point of view. Unfortunately I did not explain that point of view in that paragraph.

      6th large paragraph:
      Protecting me from bankruptcy would only work, if in fact they covered a claim that was far beyond my means, assets, and cash flow. I get what you mean, but it is still a better start!

      7th large paragraph:
      However, I don’t know if I would agree that going with a traditional insurance company would be better for my situation and others like me. And this is because investing between $500 to $1000 per month to get the same possible benefits as what I would get from one of these ministries, may put me into bankruptcy faster! haha.

      8th and 9th paragraphs:
      About haggling – this is something I have read personally and is exactly what Samaritan does not do, but generally the other health share ministry companies do. Samaritan requires one to try to get discounts, which may be troublesome for those who don’t have a stomach for it.

      Thanks again for your comments and God bless you

  2. Thanks for a great article Dr. Simpson. It is unfortunate that Medi-Share isn’t available in Montana, and I definitely understand your reservations. I’ve had a great experience with it so far though, and wanted to mention that while you must be a Christian of good faith, you don’t need a statement of faith from your minister to join. The N/A does mean that a $500 deductible isn’t available (it is for certain ages though).

    If you wanted to include my more detailed price comparison for Medi-Share in your resources, I would greatly appreciate that. Thanks again for your excellent content.

    http://www.medisharereviews.com/price-comparison.html

    1. Colin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I have corrected the info on requiring a statement of faith from a minister and have added your link to the information under “Medi-Share” in the blog post.

      God bless and Be well!

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