Is a Healthcare Sharing Ministry the Answer to High Health Insurance Costs?

Image Credit: Studio-Annika/iStock/GettyImages

As a self-employed individual, health insurance costs are on me. I don't have an employer who gives me benefits simply because I am my employer.

At this point, it's no secret that health insurance in the United States is a hot mess that's left many individuals – including me – looking for other options.

In this article, I'm detailing why I'm opting out of traditional health insurance for 2017. I'm also going to explain what I'm doing to cover my healthcare costs instead.

The Why

I've been purchasing my own health insurance for years now. That's why it's with experience that I can tell you all the ways our healthcare system is a disaster. Let's use bullet points to make it easier, shall we?

  • It's expensive as hell. The Affordable Care Act, while a noble and valiant effort, left much to be desired. If you don't qualify for a tax credit (I haven't qualified in a while) then you're looking at soaring premiums, ridiculously high deductibles and increasing out of pocket costs. The deductible on my last insurance plan doubled from one year to the next and premiums have skyrocketed all over the country. There are many factors that go into why this is happening, but all you really need to know is this costs too much money.
  • I didn't have many choices. Maybe it's because of the area I was in and what was available to me via the exchange, but the affordable choices were terrible. I was stuck with doctors I didn't even want.
  • I'm tired of the constant hoops. My health insurance plans were discontinued twice in the three years I purchased them. One of the major health insurance companies in my state also decided to opt out of the exchange. I was practically going through a new insurance plan every year just trying to keep up.
  • We're in for a change anyway. Rather than trying to fix the Affordable Care Act, a Republican-led congress is looking to scrap it all together. This means we have no idea what's coming next.

I, for one, am tired of waiting around for government leaders to fix this mess. I'm also tired of paying way too much money for less than stellar coverage. So I found another option thanks to some financially savvy friends.

I joined a health sharing ministry.

While our country is busy fighting over healthcare, I've got my backup plan in place in the form of a health sharing ministry. Originally started by religious groups, health sharing ministries are pretty straightforward. Everyone gives into the pot and when someone gets sick it's paid for from the pot.

"A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) provides a health care cost sharing arrangement among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs," the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom shared on its site. "HCSMs are not-for-profit religious organizations acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses."

Here are the benefits so far:

  • I'm paying $200 a month less than I would with traditional insurance.
  • 100% of my eligible health care costs are covered up to a million dollars once I hit my $500 sharing amount (think of this as a deductible).
  • I can go to whatever doctor I want. I simply show them the card, they give me a bill and my health sharing group takes care of the rest.

The reason this works for me is because I'm young and healthy. If I were sick and needed constant medical care, then this probably wouldn't be a good option. But for now, it's going to get me through this rough patch we're experiencing in the U.S.