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.
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!
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:
- Liberty Health Share
The BAD ones:
The ones I am NOT sure of:
- 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/
- not available in all states – including Montana where I currently live
- higher premiums
- closer to liberty health share in what they cover
need a statement of faith from your ministerCORRECTION
- You will need to sign their statement of faith
- Based upon the cost for myself and based upon my age it would be over $230 to $300 or more to have at least a $1,250 deductible – here is the link to the calculator for that info: https://mychristiancare.org/medi-share/program-options/share-calculator/medi-share/?nop=s&d=12/26/1983
- It didn’t even give me what it would cost for a $500 deductible… It said N/A. What does that mean? Does it mean it doesn’t exist? Then why would they even mention it? I like it when a group tells me everything up front – this group did NOT do that directly on the website. It just seemed strange…
- Here is their page with their reviews:
- this link compares Medi-Share with CHM, Samaritan, and Liberty – http://www.medicalcostshare.com/comparison-of-major-healthcare-sharing-ministries.html
- This group also was SUED in 2007 and 2008 for things that could be paid, that were not. LINK here: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-23/membership-for-health-sharing-ministries-soars-under-obamacare
MEDICAL COST SHARING – http://www.medicalcostshare.com/
- All plans are from $275 to $360 for deductibles from $1000 to $5000 for up to $200,000 covered. The 4th plan is $99 and is “limited,” but doesn’t say how limited. https://s3.amazonaws.com/medicalcostsharingwebsite/Backup/Medical+Cost+Sharing+PDF/MCS+Newest+Ebook.pdf
- they definitely cover a lot of stuff and have more options for people who have more money or willing to pay more – at least from what I can tell
- They are associated with Liberty Health Share (the group one I like the most), but I am unsure how they are affiliated – I need to learn more about this
- Bad Review here: (search for October 13th, 2016) http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2015/12/01/review-comparison-healthcare-sharing-ministries/
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:
- How do I know if something is going to be covered?
- Where does the money get sent to? The person, organization, and how does it get disbursed?
- How do you determine if someone doesn’t fit the beliefs that you think aren’t right? (Signed letter of confirmation, your word, etc.)
- How often have you not been able to pay a bill?
- What if there is not enough money to pay for a particular bill?
- How many members do you have?
- Any reimbursement difference between in and out of network doctors, difference in cost, covered or not?
- Are motorcycle accidents covered?
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you offer dental and vision plans?
- Are wellness visits and tests included?
- Do I have to be a church member of the place I am attending?
- Is this plan ACA-compliant?
- Do pre-existing conditions make me ineligible?
- 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
- Are you pre-pay/self-pay before reimbursement is given?
- Are natural/alternative treatments provided?
- Do you accept all Christian faiths?
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!
P.S. If anything is inaccurate, please let me know and I will change it!