What is a Health Share Plan?

With insurance coverage becoming progressively more expensive, people are starting to look for ways to manage their healthcare costs. A Health Share plan is a newer approach to that idea.

In short, a Health Share plan is a group of like-minded people that share the cost of their medical expenses. These groups have common ethical or religious beliefs and must agree to follow certain guidelines like a code of conduct. This certainly is not an option for everyone, but if you fall into one of these groups you could opt out of expensive traditional insurance and instead receive the assurance of health share. According to one health share group, membership more than doubled after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

How It Works
People who join a health share plan pay a monthly amount, just as you would for insurance. The program you choose to join may offer similar benefits, such as discounts on healthcare visits. Often these plans are far cheaper than traditional insurance — sometimes up to half the cost — and possibly with lower deductibles. For some who cannot afford health insurance plans, these offer an option for some type of health coverage — and prevent you from paying the federal penalty for going without insurance.

The Pros and Cons of Health Share

Sometimes known as “health sharing ministries,” these plans are not the same as insurance. Such plans do not have to follow laws and guidelines like traditional insurance companies. Each group creates its own set of rules, and may not cover conditions it feels aren’t appropriate, such as teen pregnancy. Some groups also require adherence to rules around drinking and sex before marriage.

The plans also don’t cover pre-existing conditions, which means many find themselves searching out traditional health insurance as a supplement or later, a replacement when needed.

Healthcare sharing ministries are available from Liberty Healthshare, Christian Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries, and Altrua Healthshare.

A few lawsuits have sprung up against health share organizations after they refused to pay out; with no regulation behind them, members have little recourse against these organizations. But many find them useful for managing their health care costs and covering large medical bills. One doctor did a breakdown comparing his costs under an ACA plan and a health share plan.

PROS

  • -More affordable than health insurance
  • -Visit any doctor or hospital because there is no “network” of coverage
  • -Members feel as if they are helping each other rather than paying a corporation

CONS

  • -No guaranteed payments on procedures the group doesn’t deem necessary
  • -Most don’t cover pre-existing conditions
  • -Most limit joining to strictly Christians who agree to live by certain rules

Most critically for insurance groups and health organizations, these health share plans draw healthy people from the traditional insurance market, which could cause some problems in the industry, given that only 9 percent of Americans seek insurance through the ACA or other sources.

Have you heard or seen any impact from health share plans in your work?

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