Faith-based health insurance is not is not regular insurance, as they allow a lot of people to “share” the healthcare costs. This healthcare is available through 501(c)(3) nonprofit charities that are religiously oriented. They serve as an alternative to normal health insurance. They are also called “health sharing ministries” or “healthcare sharing ministries.”
How Does it Work?
These plans do not “insure” people. Thy rather “share” healthcare costs among many people. Members pay for it, and when they receive a bill, other members contribute and help pay the bill.
It works similarly to a credit union. The general philosophy is similar, as they are community-oriented and membership-driven non-profits. For example, Jake is a member and pays a monthly fee, which is much lower than the traditional insurance premium. If our friend Jake gets sick, the rest of the members contribute money towards paying his bill.
Does it Cover Essential Health Benefits?
This healthcare is not ACA-compliant and does not need to cover essential health benefits that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates. Members are exempt from individual mandate penalties usually present with ACA plans.
However, faith-based health plans need to meet certain requirements. For example, the members must share a common set of beliefs. The plans have to share medical expenses among members regardless of their state of residence. The members cannot lose their membership even if they develop a medical condition. Those who do not pay their share of costs can be disenrolled. Finally, the plans must be audited, and the audits must be publically available.
Can Health Saving Accounts (HSAs) Be Used together with Faith-Based Healthcare?
No. The HSAs only works with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). Therefore, members of faith-based health plans cannot use HSAs.
How Many Plans Are Available?
Currently, four major healthcare sharing ministries meet requirements to be exempt from the Obamacare penalty. These are Medishare, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Samaritan Ministries, and Liberty Healthshare. Altrua Healthshare, Anabaptist Healthshare and Solidarity Healthshare are also exempt from the penalty.
In addition, more than 100 other faith-based health plans do not qualify for the exemption. Small local churches organize most of these.
How Strict Is the Religious Requirement?
These requirements depend on the plans you choose. They normally ask members to sign a statement of faith. Some even tend to check for proof from a local church. Liberty Healthshare is open to non-evangelical Christians as members. It only requires a signed statement of faith based on biblical principles.
Are There Premiums or Deductibles?
There are premiums and deductibles, but under different names. Premiums are called “monthly sharing amounts”. They range from $100-$500 depending on the plan and the size of the family.
Deductibles and other costs are called “sharing responsibilities”. They go as low as $500, and as much as $10,000, depending on the plan.
Most of the plans also require a small enrollment fee. However, these total costs are far lower than traditional insurance prices.
What Does Faith-Based Healthcare Cover?
All of these details depend on the plan you choose.
Can I Be Denied Coverage?
Yes. The Affordable Care Act does not bound faith-based health plans, so people can be denied coverage based on some potential pre-existing conditions, or perhaps for religious beliefs.
Will I Be Able to Keep My Doctor?
Yes, as healthcare sharing ministries do not have networks. Therefore, they allow you to see any doctor you want.
What Are the Advantages?
Affordability – The plans are mush more affordable than traditional health insurance. In addition, donations from other members are looked on as “gifts”, and they are tax-free.
Keep Your Doctor
No Obamacare Penalty
Belief-Driven Healthcare – If you are a religious person, this plan allows contribution of money to organizations you share views with.
Community – This sense of community is totally absent with traditional health insurance companies. You have people who generally care for you.
What Are the Risks?
Since the plans are not ACA-compliant, they do not have to cover health benefits like preventative care or mental health care. In addition, you can be denied coverage of pre-existing conditions, or certain religious beliefs. The plan may not cover injuries from an accident caused by immoral reasons like drinking alcohol or using drugs. As these plans “share” costs and not insure members, the coverage is not guaranteed. They can run out of funds in theory and go bankrupt, failing to contribute to your costs..
Are Faith-Based Plans Subject to Regulation?
This depends on the state you are in. All 30 states released safe-harbor laws, which differentiate health-sharing ministries from health insurance companies. This makes it impossible for state regulators to enforce strict laws against this healthcare.
How Many People go with Faith-Based Healthcare?
Currently, more than 1 million Americans have faith-based health plans, the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries reported.
When and How Can I Enroll in Faith-Based Healthcare?
Online plans are possible with all major health sharing ministries mentioned. Enroll at any time, as there is no open period when you must apply.