- Are Healthcare Sharing Plans Health Insurance or an Alternative to Insurance?
- Pros and Cons of a Healthcare Sharing Plan?
- What is a Healthcare Sharing Plan?
- Non Religious Health Sharing Plan Option
- How do Healthcare Sharing Plans Compare?
- Structure and Review of Samaritan Ministries Healthcare Sharing
- Alternative Healthcare Options for Your Family Doctor – Direct Primary Care
- Structure of Christian Healthcare Ministries Review – How it Works
- Structure of Medi-Share (also called Christian Care Ministries)
- Structure of Liberty (& Solidarity) HealthShare
- Altrua…Another Healthcare Sharing Option?
- OneShare Health
- Knew Health: A New (Non-Religious) Health Sharing Option Established 2019
- Zion Health
- Catastrophes are What Insurance is For
- Help for Chronic Conditions in Health Share Plans
- Coverage – What Counts in the Various Options for Healthcare Sharing?
- Health Insurance Options Changed in Late 2017/2018 for Self-Employed Business Owners
- Our Many Healthcare Financial Discussions (Why We Chose Samaritan)
- Are You on This List? [Good Fits for a Healthcare Sharing Plan]
- But Sharing Ministries are NOT for…
If you’re considering a health sharing plan instead of traditional insurance, you’ll want the best reviews you can find. My team and I have meticulously scoured all the major healthcare sharing ministries (Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Medi-Share, Christian Care Ministries, Liberty Healthshare, Solidarity Healthshare, CMF CURO, and Zion) in this review and comparison (updated January 2023) — read about the pros and cons of health share plans, who is a great fit, what a direct primary care practice is, the new non religious health sharing plan, and finally, why we chose Samaritan Ministries after many hours of research (and we’ve submitted a health sharing need, which went very smoothly)!
If your open enrollment period for corporate insurance is leaving you less than thrilled because of higher co-pays and more out-of-pocket costs for healthcare every year, or if you’re self-employed, there’s no reason to be uninsured, underinsured or just plain ticked off.
Especially if you like to use natural remedies and not visit the doctor for every little thing.
When my husband worked a corporate job, we were actually very fortunate to “only” pay about $250/mo. for our company-provided health insurance. Compared to many in this era, he had great benefits. How we would compensate for the loss of health insurance was a huge factor in our decision-making process as we weighed the options for him to leave and join me to be an entire family.
With the support of other colleagues in the blog world and learning from their experiences, we felt very comfortable exploring the various Christian healthcare sharing plans. There are four major options, all of which are permissible under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Are Healthcare Sharing Plans Health Insurance or an Alternative to Insurance?
Health cost sharing ministries are NOT insurance, but thankfully they all sought and were granted approval under the Affordable Care Act, which means that at tax time, you have no penalties and no real paperwork hassle either – one simple form or box to check on your taxes.
We would have had to pay over $1000/mo. through the government for incredibly basic health insurance with over a $10,000 deductible (’cause that’s super “affordable”). With Samaritan Ministries, we paid $405/mo. in 2015, which increased to $495/mo. halfway through 2016, but that’s still so much less than insurance that we can’t complain for a hot second.
Plus we have truly enjoyed not having to delay care or jump through hoops to make sure all the “codes” are right for coverage.
Pros and Cons of a Healthcare Sharing Plan?
I think a healthcare sharing plan is a perfect fit for Kitchen Stewardship®, because it allows us to feel more able to choose our own care, whether we need the medical model for something big or prefer a more natural approach. It’s also clearly a huge budget saver, so we can finally put into practice the adage:
Pay for food now or medical bills later.
I thought I’d take a little break from the kitchen and explain how this all works, in case anyone is in a situation where it’s a good fit.
I’ll discuss a little about how healthcare sharing ministries differ from insurance, the differences between the 3 major options, the pros and cons we tossed around when looking into them, and some of the situations that lend themselves very well for participating in a sharing ministry.
Medi-Share reached out to me after discovering this post and offered referral credit as well, and I’m happy to support their organization too. Here’s the referral link to check out Medi-Share, but keep reading because there’s a lot of good comparison info in the post.
What is a Healthcare Sharing Plan?
In a nutshell, a Christian sharing ministry puts into practice the early Church’s habit in Acts of everyone pooling their resources and helping the whole community when in need.
Practically, it means that all members send in an amount of money, and from that pool for the month, any members with medical needs (that fit that ministry’s guidelines) get covered.
It is NOT insurance in the traditional sense at all (nor is it defined as insurance by anyone who counts for anything). There aren’t corporate offices, payment does not go to doctors or hospitals (it comes to you and you pay your bills), there’s no coding of appointments or procedures, far less red tape, and technically, no guarantees. If there’s not enough money in the pool that month, then a medical need might not get covered.
The four major Christian options are:
- Samaritan Ministries
- Christian Healthcare Ministries
- Christian Medi-Share
- Liberty HealthShare
- (and a bonus of CMF CURO, a Catholic version of Samaritan, and Solidarity, a Catholic arm of Liberty)
For all of these ministries, you DO have to make a statement of your faith, committing to be a practicing Christian. For some, you need your pastor to sign a piece of paper stating that you’re involved in your community, etc. Things like out of wedlock pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse and rehab, sterilization – they’re not covered because they go against Biblical teachings.
Non Religious Health Sharing Plan Option
In 2019, a new player came on board: KNEW Health. This is a health sharing organization that is NOT faith-based, and their focus is on helping people stay healthy and avoid chronic disease. It’s a game changer in so many ways.
If you want to see what KNEW Health is all about, visit the KNEW Health Webpage, or you can check on and request your personalized pricing compared to the insurance or health sharing solution you’re currently using.
The co-founder of KNEW Health, James Maskell, has become a friend, and I know he has big goals and a good heart. He really wants to see Americans have access to affordable health and wellness care, with emphasis on the WELL. It’s pretty awesome!
If you decide to go with KNEW Health, you can use my code KHKITSTEW to receive a 20% recurring discount on your monthly membership cost. What a deal!
How do Healthcare Sharing Plans Compare?
Where You Send Money
The MAJOR difference with Samaritan vs. the other “big two” (CHM and Medi-Share) is that it’s the only one where you send your check directly to the person in need.
Some people love that – the connectedness to the body of Christ, the personal prayers and notes. Some people just want to automate the process and be more private about it (since if YOU are the one in need, your medical issue is published publicly).
Legally, there’s a small chance that the other two major sharing programs could come under fire someday because of the system, because they collect and redistribute funds and may look more like “insurance” than “sharing.” So far, they’ve had no problem though. Samaritan feels that they have an extra layer of protection with the government because no money goes through their hands/offices.
I actually thought I’d really dislike that part because I adore automation, especially when it comes to boring things like paying bills. I’ve been surprised.
Most months, I really do appreciate knowing where our money is going, and we’ve definitely paid a little extra in a separate envelope for “special prayer needs,” medical bills from members that aren’t publishable, either because they’re not within the guidelines (like dental or eye) or because the condition existed before the person became a member.
So I guess I’m saying don’t let that part scare you, and even if you have a pre-existing condition or pregnancy, I’d encourage you to call the Samaritan offices and talk to them. It sure sounds like MANY members end up with even un-publishable needs mostly covered by the community of Christians that makes up Samaritan. It’s amazing…
UPDATE Nov. 2017! Samaritan also added a “pay online” feature via Paypal, for all of us who love our tech! I really do appreciate this, because although I still like the connectedness of the Body of Christ…finding cards to send in the mail was starting to feel annoying…
Liberty wasn’t even on my radar (and Solidarity didn’t exist) when we started looking into this in late 2014. They are a little different as well, because you send the money online to other members’ “share boxes” but the doctor still sends bills directly to Liberty. With Samaritan, you receive and pay your own bills so the doc may save expenses vs. submitting claims through traditional insurance.
Structure and Review of Samaritan Ministries Healthcare Sharing
In general, here’s how Samaritan Ministries works in the Classic plan:
- Any medical need under $400 is not publishable – that means you pay for it yourself.
- Any approved need over $400 is “published” and people are assigned to send checks to you or PayPal.me
- You pay your own bills starting with $400 of your own money and then using what you’ve been sent (which is equal to the rest of your bill). Note that there are things that aren’t part of the plan, like dental care, motorcycle accidents, and preventative care like physical, well-child checkups, colonoscopies and mammograms, as well as the handful of “non-Christian” issues I mentioned above. See below for how pre-existing conditions are handled.
- Multiple appointments for the same medical issue/incident all count as “one.” So if you have an $180 bill for a doctor visit for a sprained wrist plus a $250 X-ray plus two follow-up appointments to make sure you healed okay at $180 each, you will only pay the first $400 of all of them added up.
- Your out-of-pocket, to use a regular insurance term, would then be $400 multiplied by your number of disasters and illnesses plus whatever you might spend on preventative/well care. If you’re like many Kitchen Stewardship® readers, you don’t go to the doctor for every little thing, so this might be quite minimal.
If you do go with Samaritan, thank you for using our name (Kristopher & Kathryn Kimball, Michigan) as your referral!
For a family of 6 with our fairly good health history, we pay $530/mo. at Samaritan for regular membership plus about $40-50 extra for Save to Share for added maximum coverage.
Some Samaritan Ministries Stats
- Currently 68,000 households/over 229,000 individuals sharing (as of Sept. 2017).
- More than $25 million/mo. in medical needs are covered.
- Operating since 1995 in all 50 states.
- Any size family pays ~$530-555, couples ~$455, individuals $160-227 depending on age. On the “Basic” plan, you can pay far less (and have more responsibility in case of an event). Check the spreadsheet comparison chart for details (updated as of January 2023)!
- Includes a “save to share” option for very large medical emergencies. (We do use this option!)
UPDATE: We submitted a need in the fall of 2019. Read all about what it was like to actually get paid by Samaritan Ministries members…
Alternative Healthcare Options for Your Family Doctor – Direct Primary Care
We are very fortunate to have an “out-of-the-box” option here in the Grand Rapids, MI area – we’re members of Christian Healthcare Centers, a Direct Primary Care center, so all of our regular care, well and sick visits under $400, are covered through that membership, which was just over $2k for the whole year for our family of 6.
We’ve been so pleased with the level of care and genuine concern there and definitely appreciate the “whole person” approach, both because the doctors look at everything at once to try to determine root causes of symptoms and also because they’re willing to take less “modern medicine” approaches to healing. The pediatrician even prays with us at the end of each appointment and responds by email probably faster than she should for her own work-life balance!
I wonder if you’ve ever heard of direct primary care (DPC)? DPC is a form of healthcare that takes medicine back to its roots, and actually pairs very well with these health sharing ministries, high deductible plans, and even works well for people who have “great” insurance or are uninsured. I thought you might like to give some information about DPC to your readers. If you google “direct primary care” you’ll find links to lots of great articles, and there is a mapper (to find DPC practices around the country) at dpcfrontier.com/mapper or dpcare.org.
– Kirsten D. Lin, MD
Every visit is absolutely REFRESHING healthcare, and I feel so blessed to have the option. It really is a perfect fit with being a member of a healthcare sharing ministry.
If you don’t have a DPC practice near you (they’re getting more common but still rare), you can actually obtain “concierge model healthcare” 100% virtually. It sounds sci-fi, but it’s reality! I recommend SteadyMD, which is what I would use in a heartbeat if we didn’t have CHC nearby.
With concierge medicine, you choose a primary care doctor, and for a few hundred dollars a month (for a big family), you have video, phone, email and text access to your doctor for any reason. Docs can diagnose rashes, talk through symptoms, order labs and prescriptions if needed, and best of all they know your full medical history AND understand functional and alternative medicine. Wow!
I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Lauren Jefferis, a doctor with SteadyMD, and we talked about all sorts of things – you can watch the full interview here or this little snippet below is where we talked specifically about who SteadyMD is a good fit for.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SteadyMD HERE!
Structure of Christian Healthcare Ministries Review – How it Works
Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) allows you to choose levels and sort of accept risk – you pay less per month for a higher payment per incident. CHM’s levels are
- Bronze – pay $5,000 per incident with limited coverage ($125,000); fees would be $255/mo. for our family
- Silver – pay $2,500 per incident with limited coverage; fees $375/mo. for us
- Gold – pay up to $500 per incident with unlimited coverage on anything above that amount; fees would have been $615/mo. for us
You can put different family members at different levels. So for example, if you were trying to conceive, you might put mom on Gold because you know she’ll have a big cost that year.
You send your checks to a central office and the organization divides the money and sends checks to those in need. It’s less of a hassle for the members, certainly, but may come under fire from the government later.
My colleague Amanda has had a great experience with CHM and wrote about how much it has saved them over insurance, plus how it went being repaid for an incident.
The company saw this reader’s comment and responded:
It sounds like she may have not understood our program and guidelines fully because:
- CHM calls to negotiate discounts on all medical bills that exceed $1,000 and the CHM Member Advocate team is very willing to assist members when they have difficulty.
- Members are requested to not fully pay their medical bills upfront so our Advocacy team can help negotiate further discounts.
- If members have discounts that are contingent on prompt payment, our Guidelines, print material and website state that the member should call CHM and our staff will help them secure those discounts.
- CHM’s policies do not/have not changed.
- The CHM Guidelines (that pre-determine medical bill eligibility) have been clarified because of misunderstandings, but this happens quite infrequently.
- The only significant Guideline change that has occurred in the past 3 years is the Gold level personal responsibility was removed— which significantly benefits Gold level members! This means that if any bill that exceeds $500, a member will have no out-of-pocket expenses.
Structure of Medi-Share (also called Christian Care Ministries)
Medi-Share has levels as well (more than 3), but in essence has a similar structure to CHM as far as where you send the money.
Medi-Share is also the only ministry we looked into that has a “network” where in and out of network docs would cost differently and be covered vs. not.
Fees are set for office visits and emergency room visits (very reminiscent of traditional insurance), and you can pay using a credit union debit card that gets automatically loaded when you have a medical need.
They do not cover preventative/wellness visits. If you go to someone “in network” (PHCS) you pay $35 right away but are still billed the rest later, but you may be able to negotiate a lower fee with the organization’s help.
The levels are as follows, for our family of 6 (should be similar for a 4-person family):
- pay out-of-pocket $1250 max per year (called the “Annual Household Portion”), $685monthly payment
- OOP $3,000 max per year, $649 monthly
- OOP $6,000 max per year, $479 monthly
- OOP $9,000 max per year, $371 monthly
- OOP $12,000 max per year, $253 monthly
Note that these costs are all based on the date-of-birth of the person applying, so born in 1979 in our case and 3+ in the family. There are savings for passing their test of “healthy” based on waist measurement, BMI and blood pressure. This list reflects the “healthy” rates, which apply to both adults in the household.
Believe me, those low monthlies under $260 were very tempting! But we worried about the out-of-pocket unknowns eating at us, so we went with a little more “known” security. We have since learned that any preventative/wellness checkups do not count toward the Annual Household Portion either.
We figured out the numbers on Medi-Share that show the “Annual Household Portion” you can choose at various levels (similar to what you’re familiar with as a “deductible” in insurancspreae terms – the most you have to pay in case of a medical need). With each option, the “monthly payments,” go down as you assume higher risk for the AHP.
See those figures plus a lot of $ info in a helpful spreadsheet that my team and I keep up to date (2021)!
A few Medi-Share Stats:
- Over 220K Christians sharing since 1993, over $1.6 billion shared total (as of 2016).
- Health incentive of up to 20% available for those who meet certain criteria.
- Option for sharing for those over 65 with Medicare Parts A & B.
Here is a YouTube Video that explains the heart of Christian Care Ministry.
If you end up with Medi-Share, I’d much appreciate it if you went through this link, which helps keep the content free at Kitchen Stewardship®.
Structure of Liberty (& Solidarity) HealthShare
In the past, Liberty and Solidarity appeared to be exactly the same. That changed in 2021 when their plans became very different in regards to options for how much out of pocket expenses you incur before sharing begins. Liberty still has 3 plans. Solidarity now has 4 options, starting with a very high payment-per-incident with a rather low monthly payment.
Other factors are still very much alike. For example, Liberty and Solidarity both require doctors to send bills electronically to their system, then they are checked to see if they fit the guidelines, and members contribute directly to an individual’s “ShareBox” online, and the bills are paid to healthcare providers via the system.
Both of these companies are much more hands-off for you than Samaritan and could save a lot of time when you have a need, so as long as your doctor’s office doesn’t give you a hassle about submitting bills. If you want to, you can know about the person your monthly payment is going to so you can still pray for them, reach out, etc., although it’s not a central focus like it is for Samaritan.
2023 Update: Liberty is one of the “big 4” to be sure, but I have heard far too many stories, from real-life friends and people in the KS community and commenters on this post, about terrible experiences. I simply don’t feel like I can recommend them, so although there are some good features, it sounds like their systems and customer service have gotten worse in recent years. We chose to remove them from our comparison spreadsheet for that reason.
Altrua…Another Healthcare Sharing Option?
A reader contacted me after he read this post to let me know about a company called Altrua. They are small, but he says they are one of the 6 healthcare sharing ministries that existed before 2000 and are CMS Recognized.
Apparently, they’ve added some additional benefits recently, including preventive care, $30 PCP Visits, $75 Specialist Visits, and there are no per incident limits. Also, there is no statement of faith required, just a statement of standards.
More info about the options Altrua offers here.
In 2021 another reader emailed me to tell me about OneShare Health. I see that they’re a member of The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, which, during my reading, I learned was founded in 2007 through a collaborative effort of Samaritan Ministries and Christian Care Ministry “for the purpose of protecting and preserving the rights of their members, and Christians in general, to engage in healthcare cost sharing as a viable alternative for their medical needs.”
It looks like OneShare has three different programs ranging from “catastrophic” emergency medical coverage to more complete coverage with competitively priced monthly contributions. Might be one worth looking into more!
Knew Health: A New (Non-Religious) Health Sharing Option Established 2019
Knew Health is a brand new take on healthcare cost-sharing that sets itself apart from all the others I’m aware of by not requiring a statement of faith from their members. They’re open to everyone, not just those that profess to be Christians.
Natural/alternative treatment costs can be shared as well, which is somewhat unusual for a medical bill sharing company – they just require pre-approval.
Use Knew Health’s Cost Calculator to find out what your rates would be, and if you decide their program is a good fit for you, you can use my code KHKITSTEW to receive a 20% recurring discount on your monthly membership cost.
Zion Health is a newer player in the game, coming onto the scene in 2019. They are faith-based in their leadership BUT accept any members regardless of faith, making Zion a unique choice.
I don’t personally know anyone using Zion but would love to hear from you in the comments if you are.
Here’s what I notice that makes Zion stand out:
- They have a prescription sharing option that doesn’t seem to have a cut-off like Samaritan does (Samaritan will only pay 3 months of a prescription, no matter what).
- Zion accepts members with pre-existing conditions, and this is huge. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes (type I and II), you can still share needs as long as you weren’t hospitalized for it in the last 12 months. They offer graduated sharing options for other pre-existing conditions such that during the first year you can’t share related needs, but by year four, you can share up to $125,000/year. Go to the member guidelines here and search for the word “conditions” to read specifics.
- On an individual basis, alternative medical treatments may be accepted. Wow!
- Like some other sharing programs, Zion does not cover mental health needs.
- Zion allows tobacco use, but only with a $50 additional fee per month.
Overall Zion feels like a really good option for people who might not attend church or who have certain pre-existing conditions. They’re on our comparison spreadsheet!
Catastrophes are What Insurance is For
Another difference is maximum payout.
With the classic Samaritan plan, you only get $250K coverage per incident, max ($236,500 for Basic). We added the Save-to-Share option via Samaritan (which isn’t much more money, only about $33/month) and will get covered if something absolutely catastrophic happens.
Save to Share guidelines have changed since we started – the cap used to be $1 million, but now basically if your need is more than half of what is held in the “savings,” you can only be reimbursed for half during that year. It’s probably best if you just read the example in the guidelines!
The Save-to-Share information is a little bit confusing on the Samaritan site – just to be clear, your catastrophic need becomes shareable using the fund Samaritan has accrued, not only what your family personally has paid in.
Christian Healthcare Ministries has unlimited coverage at the gold level (more expensive per month) and Christian Medi-Share has 100% unlimited all the time. Liberty and Solidarity cover up to $1 million at their highest level of membership.
See the breakdown of all the numbers in one place in our up-to-date comparison spreadsheet!
Help for Chronic Conditions in Health Share Plans
What’s really fascinating about these ministries is that they truly DO care for the health of their members!
Samaritan’s newsletter is one of the only print items I continue to read, and they’re constantly adding more resources for members to stay healthy, get healthy, find alternative treatments, lower their costs, etc. One of the new features is their Health Resources app, including:
- Healthcare Bluebook: Search specific treatments in your area and get quality and price comparisons.
- Medibid: Receive bids from doctors for treatments you are seeking.
- Email a medical professional or call a nurse (free), or call a doctor who can write a prescription ($25).
- Discounts on prescriptions and labs.
There is such a cost savings with these resources!! Member stories and letters are being published constantly with great success using these tools.
I’m also impressed by “HealthTrac,” an optional feature at both Liberty and Solidarity. For an extra $80/month, someone with struggles such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity gets a health coach and develops a personal plan, goals, has regular communication and progress tracking.
Coverage – What Counts in the Various Options for Healthcare Sharing?
All 4 Christian health cost sharing ministries have slight differences in what they cover, but none of them were major factors in our decision. It’s worth reading the FAQs or terms and conditions at each though to watch for that.
If you have any chronic or current conditions, you’ll want to research those in depth. All 3 ministries do not cover currently active chronic diseases, but some (Samaritan included) will cover something like my husband’s Crohn’s Disease if it’s been inactive for at least 3 years without any treatment (it has, thanks be to God).
A reader shared a bit more about how CHM works with pre-existing conditions:
I looked up a little more and if a condition is treated only with “maintenance” then anything that pops up will be covered via CHM.
Bottom line on pre-existing conditions: You’re really going to want to read alllllll the Guidelines for each ministry you’re interested in and perhaps call the office to make sure you fully understand your exact situation!
Here are a few specifics that may catch your eyes as they caught ours:
- Natural/alternative treatments are covered with approval at Samaritan (some are, some aren’t); no alternative treatments are covered with CHM or Medi-Share.
- Maternity is fully covered at Samaritan and CHM (Gold only) as long as the pregnancy was completely within membership dates. Medi-Share is similar at the $3,000 level and up. It looks like all three will cover midwives under certain conditions (which may make participating in a sharing ministry less expensive than traditional insurance if yours won’t cover the kind of birth you want!)
- If you want a natural birth, by the way, this is the class you need, 100% online. Don’t you love it!?
- You can read about my friend Katie’s experience with Samaritan for births here.
- Prescriptions related to an eligible condition are published for 6 months with Medi-Share.
- Well-child care through age 6 is eligible at Medi-Share. In general regular well checkups/physicals are probably less expensive via Medi-Share because they have a set rate. We were not able to get a discount at our family doc, so every visit was $160-180 with Samaritan through our previous family doctor, but now we use the Direct Primary Care model (see above) and it’s just lovely. SteadyMD is another amazing option for anywhere in the country, fully virtual!
- Motorcycle accidents are not fully covered via some of the options; if you drive a motorcycle, read carefully!!!
Health Insurance Options Changed in Late 2017/2018 for Self-Employed Business Owners
As 2017 flipped to 2018, it got a little crazy out there – major insurance companies are leaving the private market in droves, making it impossible or prohibitively expensive for solopreneurs to keep coverage. Many counties and some entire states are left with no “major” options in the Marketplace. (sources: 1, 2, 3) Affected states include MO, KS, AK, OH, WI, IN, MI, AZ, CO, WA, WY, NC, SC, TN, GA, MS, KY, OK – who will be next to join?
Choosing a smaller insurance company can be big trouble – if you’re in that situation, call your closest hospitals to make sure they accept the little guys. Some don’t at all!
Some do, but they’ll send your children to a nearby children’s hospital, which may not – meaning you’ll get a surprise bill. ;( And since then, things haven’t changed in that arena.
There is a better way. We are huge proponents of healthcare sharing plans (but note that we fit the profile of a family who is a good fit; not everyone is).
Our Many Healthcare Financial Discussions (Why We Chose Samaritan)
When we became at-home entrepreneurs in January 2015, this issue certainly took up a lot of our couple time. It goes far smoother with a glass of wine and a good meal after the kids are in bed…really.
It’s a little scary going out on your own with healthcare, and here are some of the factors we tossed around:
- Catastrophic coverage was important to us. We wouldn’t be wiped out by a few $200 doctor visits or even a few thousand for a broken bone, but cancer and its hundreds of thousands would bankrupt us. We felt the lower maximums were far too risky and went with Samaritan’s add-on Save to Share to raise the max to a million dollars.
- Having just been through paying OOP for a home birth, the acceptance of midwives was a relief all around (although we don’t know what God has in store for us, we feel our hearts and minivan are full…but you never know…)
- I was extremely hesitant about Samaritan’s system of sending checks different places each month. I prefer to automate everything I can. I have a colleague who did NOT choose Samaritan because of that portion; she also didn’t like that medical needs are published so publicly. I got over my reservations and I really don’t mind it now. It’s only one check a month, and I do appreciate knowing what we’re paying for and praying for our recipient. UPDATE: As of late 2017, Samaritan has set up PayPal.me as an option! Woo hoo!
- If a need is unpublishable but you still need help, Samaritan sends out your address in their newsletter and recommends that people give $20 or so to help you out. It’s very personal, and from what I understand, many of those needs are fulfilled through the unrequired generosity of the other members. I’ve personally sent checks to the “additional needs” about four times in 18 months, for situations like a little boy who had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a family in my own community, and a few months where our payment was under $20 because of referrals so I couldn’t help but feel generous. You can even send an extra payment right to Samaritan and have it be tax deductible and anonymous for an additional need.
- All of the big 4 have been around over 20 years. Samaritan, Medi-Share and Liberty are all children of the 1990s but CHM has been around since 1981!
- Samaritan seems to be the most airtight as far as following the rules set forth by Obamacare – because the other three collect and redistribute money, there’s a chance they could be called into question as an “insurance company.” I’m curious where Liberty/Solidarity falls in this since money is in specific members’ “Share Boxes.”
Final Health Sharing Decision Making
- We heard from colleagues with very good experiences with all 3 major options.
- Although we are Catholic, we didn’t go with CMF CURO because other than the convenience of a card with which to pay bills, at the time we couldn’t determine any real value over Samaritan, which is the engine running CURO anyway. It’s nearly 20% more expensive than Samaritan. Here are some differences which amount to a cost differential:
- Easier to pay with the CURO card
- When you have a need, you don’t receive dozens of individual checks, because people can pay right into your card balance (although now that Samaritan has PayPal integrated this is less of a difference)
- CURO has a Catholic healthcare ethicist on staff and soon will have a spiritual director
- One team member to help with a need, rather than calling customer service each time and waiting for a different person
- A portion of your CURO membership supports the Christ Medicus Foundation, working on pro-life legislation and women’s health clinics
- Personal help is often given to reduce medical costs and cover un-shareable needs as well
- Their mission: to help people experience Christ in their healthcare and help them on the path to sainthood
- Overall it sounds like CURO prides itself on being quintessentially Catholic and more personal than Samaritan. If you’re Catholic, it’s worth a phone call to ask questions.
- Medi-Share was out because we read that “permanent, lifelong diagnosis/conditions are ineligible for sharing.” We understood that to apply to my husband’s Crohn’s Disease. Samaritan doesn’t publish pre-existing conditions for sharing UNLESS it has basically been “in remission.” My husband’s Crohn’s was okay because he hasn’t needed real treatment for it in 10 years and hasn’t seen a doctor for anything at all related for at least 5 years.
- Because we wanted catastrophic coverage, we would have had to go with the gold level at CHM, and the monthly payment would have been about $45 higher than Samaritan, and the minimum expense per incident was also a few hundred dollars higher. I decided we’d try it and I could deal with writing one check by hand per month.
- Liberty wasn’t on our radar and Solidarity and KNEW didn’t exist. We’ve since had friends choose Liberty and have an absolutely horrible experience, so my mouth is sour about them.
To run all the numbers and try to figure out what each option would REALLY cost, my left-brained husband put together a comparison spreadsheet, which we’re happy to share with you (and my team has updated and improved often, most recently January 2023!).
So far we’ve been happy with the ministry as far as their obvious heart for caring for the community and just the fact that we can break from the system and be autonomous and not have to pay crazy amounts for health insurance. It definitely makes you think about whether you really need to see a doctor for such-and-such when you know that $170 office visit will be completely out of pocket!
We didn’t have a need published until Fall 2019, but we’ve now fully participated – want to read how it felt to share a need with Samaritan Ministries?
Are You on This List? [Good Fits for a Healthcare Sharing Plan]
I don’t think this option is for everyone, especially if you have great insurance through work, but it’s perfect for these situations and many more:
- Any Christian who is self-employed, hands down
- A family paying more than $650 out of pocket for their insurance through work should take a hard look at these options and run some numbers
- Generally healthy people who greatly dislike the “system” they’re in, especially if that system forces them to go to certain doctors. Healthcare Sharing Ministries give you the option to be far more autonomous!
- Families who want the option of having midwives or home births covered
- Anyone fed up with insurance red tape
- An employee whose company offers a kickback if they don’t take the insurance plan, especially one who wants more autonomy in healthcare providers – run the numbers to see if it would work out for you!
- A Christian whose insurance covers procedures they find morally reprehensible and who hate the thought of contributing to that
- People on Medicare who want to be able to make their own choices about care (and who have savings to potentially spend a little more on healthcare) – again, run your own numbers. Note that Medi-Share has an option for those over 65 that pairs with Medicare A & B!
- NOTE: Remember that KNEW Health is an option for those looking for something that isn’t faith-based…and you can use my code KHKITSTEW to receive a 20% recurring discount on your monthly membership cost.
But Sharing Ministries are NOT for…
- Those with active, chronic, expensive illnesses
- Those who feel the need to go to the doctor for every little thing
- Those who can’t budget money to set aside
- Anyone with great insurance who is happy with their current doctor
- People on multiple, ongoing prescription drugs who wouldn’t be able to pay for them out-of-pocket – although this is beginning to change with some of Samaritan’s new features
I truly hope this departure from the kitchen was helpful for many of you! If nothing else, even if you are happy with your insurance and don’t need this info, it’s interesting (and encouraging) to me to know that there are options out there beyond insurance, which drove me nuts.
Remember that health share ministries are a way to practice good stewardship. And you just never know when you’ll be the one in need. Check the video for what happened and the decisions I had to make when my son got really sick on a weekend.
If you have any questions for me that aren’t answered in the post, I’ll certainly try my best to answer them in the comments. Feel free to leave your own experiences with a healthcare sharing ministry if you like! My team and I also keep a spreadsheet comparing all the fees and expenses with each health sharing plan very up to date.
128 thoughts on “Health Sharing Plans = Uncommon Healthcare Options Over Traditional Insurance”
Thank you. I’m excited to learn about KNEW Health. I’ve checked the others and was a little discouraged; this sounds like it might be the “coverage” I’ve been looking for.
So glad you’ve found something that might work for you!
Lots of great information here! So many reviews call is “Christian Insurance” and it’s so misleading. Thank you for making it clear that health care sharing ministries are not at all insurance! It’s definitely a great alternative option. Thank you!
We’ve used Samaritan Ministries for a number of years and have found several great options to save on preventative care. We order routine blood work through www.ultalabtests.com. Our doctor tells us which tests she wants run, and then we pay for the tests through this website. Then they send us a lab requisition form, which we take to either LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics to be drawn. Results are emailed to us through the website, and then we email those results to our doctor. For example, a Vitamin D test is $100 from our doctor’s office, but only $35 through Ulta Lab Tests.
Another resource for routine screening colonoscopies is www.colonoscopyassist.com. They partner with local providers to offer colonoscopies (including any needed pathology) for a set fee. We paid $1195, which included doctor fees, procedure (at a well respected surgical center), and pathology for multiple polyps. There are multiple options out there to save money – these are just two that we’ve had great experiences with!
Thanks for sharing those resources!
Kaitie. I am planning retirement and a friend shared your website with me. Like your husband, I too am left brained and would love to see his spreadsheet. I have clicked the link and get to the next screen but I am not getting it in my inbox. I’ve checked all my spam folders and it’s not there either. I have tried having it sent to 3 different email addresses (each using a different ISP) and still I do not get the .xls. Is there a trick I am missing or is something possibly broken on your end?
We have been on Samaritan Ministries for years and have had “needs” that we put through Samaritan Ministries. They are awesome. When my son got hit by a pickup truck, it was $300 or 350 (I forget… it was one or the other) for several days in the hospital, two surgeries, and a month in a wheel chair – this video explains: https://youtu.be/aAk6NsvDjj8
We used to have the other one… but when my kid went to a hospital, because there is an “insurance card” with the other one, we were locked into prices (no “cash” offers accepted). We had a super high deductible. So, for us, an ER visit was a couple thousand for a mere ultrasound… that is why we switched to Samaritan Ministries.
Thanks for sharing your experience Dr. Michael!
I am an RN-BSN who practices as a psychiatric-mental health nurse in Florida at the moment. I am planning on moving to New Hampshire or New York this fall to live closer to two of my adult children. I have used Christian Healthcare Ministries for the past 3 years. I pay $172/month per their Gold level. I need to get a new physical before I plan on travel nursing. I also just got quoted for oral surgery and CHM will not cover anything of that. I was wondering if it would be a good thing to switch to another Christian Healthcare group like Samaritan’s. I need to be prepared. The Covid season has begun here in Florida and I want to do the right thing. I also would love to get some acupuncture treatments but CHM will not cover those. I do contract at times because when I work for an agency, they require an independent contract status. I am presently in a fulltime status and do not carry their health insurance.
I recommend checking with individual companies about what they will or won’t cover since you have specific things coming up. I know Samaritan doesn’t cover dental work, and while they do cover some alternative therapies like acupuncture there are conditions that need to be met. It may be that there isn’t much difference in coverage from CHM on those things. You’ll get the most reliable information from the companies themselves.
I have some experience of being both on Medi-Share and Solidarity HealthShare, so I thought I’d offer my experience as someone may find it helpful.
The main plus to Medi-Share in my opinion is their network of providers. I know that some hospitals – such as Mayo Clinic – have stopped billing Medi-Share (or any other health sharing ministry for that matter) and one of our two local hospitals have also stopped billing Medi-Share. I’ve heard incidental reports of Medi-Share’s network “shrinking” as providers stop participating with them but I have not personally been able to confirm this. Medi-Share still claims a “robust” network but one would need to check with your providers to see if they will bill them.
There is a HUGE advantage to direct billing with Medi-Share as then the hospital can only bill at the negotiated rate. It can be tough with some hospitals if they just treat health sharing ministries as “cash pay” patients (ie won’t bill the health sharing ministry direct) and then quote an INSANE amount of money for a procedure. As much as I think Medi-Share’s reimbursements may be too high – which I will speak of below – it offers protection against hospitals charging exorbitant sums for uninsured cash-pay health sharing ministry members. The amount they would charge – above and beyond what Medi-Share would ever reimburse them – is often huge. So if they bill Medi-Share, they can’t do that.
Mayo Clinic in the past would only bill certain health sharing ministries and Medi-Share was one of the few. They would not direct bill Solidarity at the time they were still direct billing Medi-Share. When I was on Medi-Share, I probably had about $20,000 worth of medical care provided there and for the most part it was smooth as regards payment. One exception was a celiac genetic test they did – which I didn’t realize they were doing at the time – but Medi-Share clearly indicates they don’t share into genetic testing. The only snag was a $14,000 (!) back MRI I had done there. Medi-Share didn’t like the way it was coded and so Mayo had to review their coding and I believe, re-code the procedure in order for it to eligible for sharing. I was nervous during this time as that’s an expensive test to have to cover. And Medi-Share probably had a legitimate issue as to the coding. I had seen an ophthalmologist at Mayo who was concerned about a potential auto-immune disease and so he ordered a back MRI. Usually, one doesn’t get a back MRI because of a vision problem. So I think the coding probably looked questionable initially to Medi-Share.
In some regards I wish that Medi-Share would work to negotiate lower reimbursements to providers as I feel $14,000 for a back MRI is wildly inflated but Medi-Share is trying to work “within the system” so to speak. They are sharing into amounts that have been negotiated with the hospitals through the MultiPlan network they are a part of. Other health sharing ministries will determine what a reasonable cost is – in their opinion – and then only reimburse that much. That does draw less upon the reserves of the health sharing ministry but also can leave the member footing a huge bill if they went to a place that charged a larger amount for a service. And as much as one may be able to plan – and shop around – for certain services, in some circumstances that is not as feasible. And trying to find out what a hospital will charge you in advance can be extremely difficult. Also if you’re going to a place like Mayo or Cleveland Clinic, they are often trying to get to the bottom of difficult medical questions and you won’t know till you’re there and have seen the specialist, what tests he’s going to order for you to have the same or next day.
I wish Medi-Share offered a slight flexibility with regards tobacco. Samaritan, for example makes an exception for a rare, celebratory cigar. Medi-Share is no tobacco in any form, ever, period. And to join you must have been completely tobacco free for 1 year.
In any event, I ended up switching to Solidarity as I’m Catholic and was happy to try a more Catholic oriented ministry. Also, their monthly share amounts – at the time – were significantly lower and the annual unshared amount was also much lower. They claim freedom from networks so you can go where you choose. They’re also more flexible with tobacco use. Similar to alcohol – in moderation.
Someone else in my household – who was also on Solidarity with me – ended up needing hernia surgery. Going through the pre-notification with Solidarity was challenging. They wanted surgery codes and clinical notes… unless you decide on a surgeon and hospital, you don’t know this info. For example, there are different ways to do hernia surgery: open, laparoscopically, etc and these all have different surgery codes. And if the surgery is not going to be shareable, you may decide to forgo it or at least delay it. So you have to gather all the info from the hospital/surgeon and then see if Solidarity will share into it. And it’s tough to know where to go until you know how much they’re going to charge and if they’ll bill Solidarity or not.
The need for hernia surgery occurred in the midst of the initial COVID outbreak and many of Solidarity’s employees were working from home I believe. I had to make numerous calls and emails to Solidarity and it took longer than I would have liked. I felt if I wasn’t calling and pushing them, it wouldn’t have happened. They were not good at communicating. One call I made to ask the status and they said they were waiting for all the documents. I actually had my doctors office send over documents twice. She then checked – while I was on the phone – and said, “We have everything and I’ll go ahead and submit it.” I’m glad I called! Otherwise would it have gotten processed at all? I never got notification of the approval either. I called some days later and she said it had been approved. Well shouldn’t that have been communicated to me? I had to ask later for the pre-notification approval paperwork as I wanted to have some physical record that they had, in fact given the pre-auth. Again, happy to cut some slack as they were adjusting to COVID and were probably short staffed but this greatly increased my stress and frustration.
I could not find any highly regarded hospital (in Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, etc) within say 8 hrs of my location – with the exception of UW Madison (who said they would balance bill us for what Solidarity didn’t pay), who would actually bill Solidarity. All other hospitals said we’d have to cash pay and then submit it to Solidarity ourselves. I spent many hours researching and calling hospitals’ billing departments to try to work something out. And the problem is the hospitals were quoting huge amounts for cash pay patients. Completely inflated and entirely unreasonable. I didn’t want to submit that kind of a bill to Solidarity after the fact as they then would have very little negotiating power. And being that most hospitals wouldn’t bill them, I wonder whether they would even be able to negotiate. Either Solidarity would share with the members a wildly inflated bill or pay some and leave the rest to me. Bad either way. Felt very alone during the process trying to figure everything out.
We did find one local hospital – whose surgeon discouraged the surgery – who would bill Solidarity. But we didn’t feel comfortable with the surgeon. Found a small Catholic hospital a few hours away (that didn’t have a great safety record according to my research) who would also bill Solidarity. Was seriously leaning towards going there anyway but their surgeon kept putting off the appt because he had some family issues (death of a family member I believe). And a third (also a few hours away) that wouldn’t bill Solidarity directly but said they wouldn’t balance bill us for what Solidarity didn’t cover. But these are tiny hospitals in the middle of nowhere and even for a relatively simple surgery, I prefer to go to a bigger hospital. I’m trying to convey that ones options seem VERY limited with Solidarity, in our experience anyways.
Ended up getting a hospital to do the surgery as a charity case. The hospital would rather do it for no charge then bill Solidarity and at least get something for it. I was grateful for their generosity but shocked that they wouldn’t even seek some payment from Solidarity.
So, for the hernia surgery, having Solidarity ended up not being much of a help and all the pre-authorization process I went through was pretty much for naught. It could have worked if we went with a surgeon/hospital we weren’t really comfortable with.
I think Solidarity works best for those who stay close to home and are able to get a local hospital to agree to bill them.
I am going to switch back to Medi-Share once I’ve been completely tobacco free for a year. I would like the option of being able to go to a Cleveland Clinic should a serious medical situation arise. That’s what insurance and ministries are for: if things go bad and you need extensive medical care that you otherwise couldn’t afford. I don’t want to be on a health sharing ministry that requires us to seek to negotiate with hospitals’ crazy cash pay rates… or to seek to find the rare one that will charge a reasonable cash pay rate or be willing to bill Solidarity directly. In short, I like how Medi-Share operates more like traditional “insurance.” In our experience, it has saved a lot of headaches and given us more freedom to choose providers and hospitals we are most comfortable using.
Wow, thanks for sharing so much information about your experience! I’m sure others will appreciate reading it!
As an addendum to my review, I was able to confirm with AMPS – who Solidarity Healthshare works with in negotiating prices for healthshare – that Solidarity Healthshare does have a history of working with Cleveland Clinic. So there may be more price negotiation possibilities than I originally realized.
There certainly are some advantages of Solidarity in some respects to be completely fair:
1) Solidarity is more open to sharing in alternative health treatments
2) Their annual unshared amount (for a single person) is currently $750 vs $3,000 which is the lowest that Medishare offers.
3). The monthly premiums for me are nearly identical for me – $251 for Medishare vs $249 for Solidarity. But Medishare doesn’t kick in till you reach the $3,000 mark.
4) Solidarity shares in some things BEFORE you reach your annual unshared amount – like an annual physical and associated labs for example. Those things can also add up.
Probably best to check all the fine print if you’re comparing the two healthsharing ministries as things change.
I see that you do not have the highest rated Healthshare listed, Zion Health. Please update to include Zion Health.
We update this post yearly, so I’ll make a note to look into that one next time it’s updated. Thanks!
Also, what about Solidarity? Have you heard any negative feedback on them?
I have not heard any personal experience or feedback on Solidarity. Maybe some other commenters who have experience will chime in.
Hi, I am an American, living in Costa Rica most of the year. Do any of these options cover International healthcare costs? Healthcare is much more affordable in Costa Rica.
Hi Angie! Many Samaritan members do go to other countries just to save money on treatment, so knowing that, I would tentatively say YES. But definitely check with Samaritan customer service to confirm before jumping in. It’s so nice to have less red tape!! 🙂 Katie
I found the program difficult to file needs and dangerous without preventive care. It seems everything claim was a prior or routine even though a normal office visit would not handle the exam. Colonoscopies are only covered if you are bleeding which means you already have cancer.
Yearly check ups and the testing that goes with it are not covered. Even office visits when you are hurting but the doctor can not do a diagnosis are not covered. Therefore members tend not to go to the doctor and when they do have a need the condition would be far worse then what could have been handled if normal office visits were in the program. Services not covered were rectum exam and diagnostic colonoscopy with biopsy.
Thanks for sharing – curious how long ago you submitted a need? I recently went through the process and it was a piece of cake.
I think it’s not “dangerous” but definitely something to be aware of as a member — you need to be in charge of your own healthcare and make wise decisions about when to go to the doctor. There’s a temptation to avoid it I’m sure, but we’re adults here and should be able to be trusted with our own healthcare. Budgeting for routine physicals and diagnostic testing like a colonoscopy is another important consideration, but with the low cost per month, people should be able to put that money aside regularly in their budget. (Side note: Blood in the stool can mean all sorts of things other than cancer.)
I’m blessed to have a direct primary care doc, so for just over $2k for the entire year for all 6 of us, all physicals and routine checks are covered.
I’m glad you brought up these considerations though – new members want to think through their own mental choices and budgeting. 🙂 Katie
(I’m a direct primary care physician)
Think of it like this:
If we used our car insurance for preventive care (gasoline, new tires, fixing the alternator, repairs, etc) it would be astronomically expensive! This is what we have done with health insurance and the system has been distorted from its original intention. Health sharing ministries carve out primary care which does NOT need to be expensive. In putting this responsibility on the patient, the monthly costs for emergency care/catastrophic is much more manageable. All patients that I have seen submit claims have all had an easy time and gotten reimbursed promptly. I have even had a patient with Samaritan who got a kidney transplant for more than $100,000! Reimbursed no problem.
We have some cost of ownership of our bodies and if you shop around you can get good cash pricing on the preventive care. A direct primary care office is a great way to do this. We have annual labs for under $50 for cholesterol, blood counts, diabetes, electrolytes, kidney and liver check all included. Preventive visits are covered under a monthly membership. Combining direct primary care (DPC) with a health share ministry is actually the ideal way to get medical expenses paid in my opinion. Just my two cents.
Thank you for this EXCELLENT analogy with car insurance, Dr. Nalda! I really appreciate your perspective and agree 100%. Thanks so much! 🙂 Katie
Katie, I was denied on several claims just recently. The colonoscopy I was to save for is $12,300 at the Cleveland Clinic plus $275 per poly. The Samaritan specialist said this was routine and not covered even though it’s a biopsy colonoscopy.
“Budgeting for routine physicals and diagnostic testing” there is no way to budget because you don’t know what testing they are going to do and you have to agree to pay full price in CASH before you go in for testing.
I don’t want to qualify for needs with blood in the stool in order for my colonoscopy to be paid for under diagnosis. I want preventative care before I have blood in the colon.
My primary doctor has me do blood test, imaging and yet can not produce a diagnosis which means I pay for all that expense. This is why I switched to the Cleveland Clinic the best in the world. “You’re just getting older” is not a covered diagnosis.
Potential members should understand that Samaritan DOES NOT cover for prior or routine, you must get a diagnosis or the actual bill you incurred will be yours. You better be sure you are sick because the medical testing is very expensive.
“$2k for the entire year for all 6 of us” Katie just be blessed you are young and healthy.
“if you shop around you can get good cash pricing on the preventive care”. This is what is dangerous. A colonoscopy can be as cheap as $1,200 or if you go to Cleveland Clinic its $8,000. Which place would you want to place you health into? At the cheapest hospital Metro in Cleveland the yearly check up blood work cost $800. There is not place cheaper.
Samaritan Giver *the new program is not recognized by Cleveland Clinic and you will be required to pay CASH up front and then hope to get reimbursed. Samaritan promises you will pay a fair negotiated rate but they don’t guarantee this. Samaritan has a third party to set rates and the specialist promised if Cleveland clinic did not agree to the rate they would sue the Clinic for fair pricing. However Cleveland clinic can fully justify their rates and you the member will be paying the agreed upon fees when you went in.
Is the spreadsheet updated t for 2019 changes?
Hannah, It was last updated on September 13th of this year. I hope that helps!
Also Beware that if you want to leave SMI, you have to jump through a bunch of bu·reau·crat·ic hoops to leave. When I got insurance through work and one of my daughters did the same, it was easy. But when my wife became eleigible for medicare and I was left with just one daughter on the plan, Then paperwork hit the fan 1) my wife had to sign a special form to disenroll (previously I just made a phone call. 2). Then they said the form did not come in time so I got charged another $500 for a month of “services” that I won’t use because she is already covered with medicare. 3) My daughter had to “reenroll” on her own (Why?, makes no sense to me. She was already enrolled) but because she lives away from home at college and we had to get her local pastor to fill out his part of the form we missed another ar·bi·trar·y “deadline”. Now we have to pay a “new enrollee” fee of an extra $200. In addition to this, be aware that if you are able to “share” an need, not everyone pays in a timely manner. My wife fell and broke her arm requiring surgery. Total shareable needs were about $50,000. We did not have that kind of money and had to pay up front so we opend a credit card just for that purpose. The accident was in August and everything was not settled until April of the next year. Meanwhile we had to pay interest charges on the credit card. My daughter had a car accident in 2017 and to date, we still have not gotten $3000 we paid out. We are told that the time has lapsed for any bills to be submitted so here is another situation we had to go out of pocket. With a salary of $32000 a year as a christian school teacher, this has been a promise that is far from as good as it was portrayed.
Oh dear! Henry, this is one of the first (if not the first) terrible story I’ve heard about SMI, and I’m so sorry you had such an awful experience! 🙁 The paperwork to leave and get back in sounds annoying but still far better than most paperwork for insurance, but I’m appalled that it took so long to get your need fulfilled and that you didn’t get all the money you paid out. I’m glad you shared the story, because it’s really important to have all sides of the issue laid out. I’m actually writing a post this afternoon about submitting our first need and how pleasant it was, but I’ll mention that there can be issues. I appreciate you — Katie
If you join CMF Curio https://cmfcuro.com/ at $84 per month to help with billing, they are a concierge adviser. I did not have a need so I need used their services for $1,000 per year.
Of course my thinking was if I spend $230 for Samaritan, $84 for CMF Curio I might as well used the subsidies and get an Obama subsidized plan.
Thank you for sharing! Do you know of anyone who chose Knew Health? And have they had good experiences? I’m trying to figure out if Knew Health would be a good option for me! Thank you!
Hi Amanda – Knew Health is SO new that I haven’t heard any stories yet. This is all they have online: https://knewhealth.com/community/member-stories/ Once I start hearing from people I’ll totally update the post – thanks for asking!! 🙂 Katie
Thank you for putting together this comparison blog post! Super helpful. I’m also curious about Knew Health. Just writing here so I can check back if anything changes!
Also intrigued by Knew Health. Have you heard any new updates from them or their current members?
I ended up going with something else. Could not find one review off their website, and reached out to 10+ people who follow them (between IG & fb) & no answers from anyone. I took that as a sign that maybe it’s not so great. Haha
So I see the last comment on this was July of this year, but prior to that it was roughly 3 years ago. Are you still feeling like Samaritan was the best choice for you? Have you had to share any bills since you wrote this, if so how was the experience? Any updates or comments you have about any of these companies would be great…
Hi Johnna – the comments had a gap only because I had closed comments for the entire blog so streamline my life. 🙂 We are still with Samaritan and love them, and I’m in the middle of submitting my first need and will update this post when I know how the whole process feels! We update this post and spreadsheet at least 2x/year so it’s always very current, including my experience. 🙂 Thanks for asking! Katie
I posted a response to a comment because I’m confused about how one goes about negotiating down a medical bill even as one waits 120 days to get it paid.
We’re considering switching from Medi-Share to CHM. I like the “incident by incident” approach to capitizing OOP expenses. I just don’t know how people negotiating deals w/ medical providers are able to use a carrot/stick approach to get their bills lowered.
I admit that I’m completely baffled by this.
We’ve been Self-Insured ‘from the beginning,’ so it isn’t as though all of this is new ground. I just don’t understand the process for negotiating bills down, other than paying cash up front.
Would love to know anyone’s real life experiences, as in, exactly what you did and said to achieve this.
Best and Blessings to all, T
Personally, we’ve negotiated things down by paying cash and from hearing other people’s stories, it seems like that is definitely the most common way to do it. I have heard a couple times of people asking for itemized bills for a surgery or hospital stay and they’re able to find discrepancies on the bill or it’s automatically lower once they’re forced to itemize it. I would imagine it highly depends on the doctor/hospital as to whether or not that makes a difference though. I hope other people can chime in with their experience to help you out!
I am a member of Samaritian Health and have a credit card with very low interest rate. Wife had kidney stone issues and by using the card with doctor and 2 different hospitals was able to negotiate $85000 down to $16000. Then got another $1000 of by writing a letter explaining how we were both kind of in the same busines of helping others. At all times stay in contact with the finance people. MAKE COPIES OF ALL COMUNICATIONS as I was incorrectly billed by her doctor and an anastasis. Samaritian even paid the interest on the card as it took a couple months to get all the bills from the providers. Hope this helps.
Thanks for the all the great information Katie! As both a naturopathic physician and a chiropractic physician, I have never had insurance! Crazy, right? I just don’t believe in it, as it stands. Unfortunately accidents do happen and God has put in on my heart to go this route. I have a few comments and questions.
The problems I am feeling with these ministries is that they want you to believe exactly as they believe – at least this is what I think and what I have read. What I mean is, yes, I can call myself a Christian. Yes, I do go to church every week and yes, I do not smoke, drink or otherwise – but can they deny you care, if somehow they discover that your “brand” of Christianity isn’t what they thought was the “best” version?
Also, what I notice, out of reading all the comments, is that there consistently only a few groups that actually will do what they say they will do:
– CHM = https://www.chministries.org/
– Samaritan = http://samaritanministries.org
The ones that I felt the best about included:
– Liberty Health Share = http://www.libertyhealthshare.org
Although Samaritan, is well-talked about, I think them and CHM seem to be more restrictive in what you “should” believe. Again, this is just my humble opinion.
Anyways, thanks bringing this conversation to the table.
I will definitely concur that Samaritan has an “angle” that they take on things, conservative, etc. (based on their newsletter articles). However – I don’t think they can deny you care after you’ve signed everything, so as long as you get a pastor to sign off and you’re approved, your valid claims should be fine. There are specifically laid out claims that aren’t publishable because of morals, like drug treatments for example. But they don’t decide those on the fly based on a judgment of your Christianity. I hope that helps clear it up! 🙂 katie
We have been with Liberty Health Share now for 4 years and their customer service has definitely gone downhill. Our doctors will no longer bill them directly, and their pay out is so slow, which has resulted in two instances of collection agencies chasing us down! Not the way we want to live. Just a cautionary tale for those looking at Liberty.
Thank you for all this information.We are with CHM but I am reaching 65 and am not eligible for medicare. CHM will only pay what is left after medicare has paid so I may need to find something else. How does Samaritan view those not eligible for medicare?
For the first time we are looking at other options for our health care costs after receiving our new premium rate with our conventional insurance for 2017 and it increased by 32%! My question is whether or not the amount that I pay to any of these shared health cost ministries would be tax deductible.
No Terry, it’s not tax deductible. But it’s so much less than standard insurance that for us, that’s a non-issue. Good luck on your search! 🙂 Katie
I, like others, am looking at Christian health share medical options and have been researching them. I will be retiring early and will loose my employer provided health insurance. I found information on another health share medical organization that a few has asked about above and looks like another viable option. It is Liberty Health Share at www.libertyhealthshare.org. Their site has information that also explains they are exempt from the ACA IRS penalty and have a link to a letter from the HHS. They appear to have some good options comparable, or in some cases, maybe even better than some of the others. I am still doing my research on them all but wanted others to be aware of this option as well.
Katie, I’m so glad you have had a positive experience with the health share you chose.
I strongly urge anyone looking into options for Health Care Sharing plans to be very careful about whom they select.
We were very enthusiastic about the idea of saving 50% on monthly premiums with potentially a much lower out-of-pocket costs due to cost-sharing with like minded individuals who try to treat their bodies in a way that honors God. We chose to sign our family up with Medical Cost Sharing (MCS). Although they were close to impossible to reach when we had question or wanted to update our billing information, all seemed to be going well and they gladly took our automated payments for several months UNTIL I had an injury that could possibly result in surgery. Shortly after submitting our doctor’s bill (which we already paid for out of pocket and negotiated the lowest possible rate) I received a letter of termination. In the letter they are claiming pre-existing conditions that I was not seeking reimbursement for, as well as stating that I have a condition (based on a medication I am taking under doctor’s order for something else but is typically used to treat a specific condition that I do NOT have). They said not to bother appealing the decision – their board is overwhelmed with the case load and has never overturned a termination. So now I am out thousands of dollars that I paid to them in contributions, plus the hundreds (plus more in the future) of dollars in current medical bills. I am sick inside that people claiming to be Christian and spout scripture stating we should help others turned their back on us the minute we had a legitimate need.
If I go to any other cost-share program now, my injury will be considered a pre-existing condition. My only option is to go back to looking at traditional ACA-compliant health insurance, which was exactly what we wanted to avoid. Do not waste your time looking at MCS. You will only waste your time, money, and your faith in humanity.
Oh no, that’s terrible, Lauren!!! 🙁 🙁 🙁 I wonder what Samaritan would say if you called them – they have people on the phone available to pray with you immediately, and honestly, I feel like they are so upstanding they might even accept the injury anyway – or at least your need would be published as an “extra” thing that many people respond to. I’d say it’s worth a call to see if these brothers and sisters in Christ would make up for the lack of Christian behavior at MCS. I’m so sorry you experienced this, ugh…thank you for sharing here so we can beware!! Blessings to you, Katie
Does anyone know if “Medical Cost Sharing” is the same as “Medical Cost Share”? On the bottom of the web site for Medical Cost Share is printed: “MedicalCostShare.com is proud to be an authorized Liberty HealthShare Member Sponsor”. So, are Liberty and MCS the same?
Out of curiosity, I put MedicalCostShare.com in the address bar and hit . It landed at https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/ . Perhaps whoever “Medical Cost Share” was, has become (or was bought out by) Liberty Healthshare, because you cannot go to a MedicalCostShare.com website. I searched for “Medical Cost Share” on Medical Cost Sharing’s website (which is https://www.mcsmedicalcostsharing.com/) and couldn’t find anything. Therefore it appears that what you found (Medical Cost Share) is now Liberty Healthshare, and has nothing to do with Lauren’s horrible experience at MCS (https://www.mcsmedicalcostsharing.com/). I do not KNOW that, but it’s the way it appears some limited research.
For reference, I am eligible for Medicare, therefore needing neither (i.e. I have no connection to any, not even as a customer), but love the Samaritan Ministries concept. I’d love it if there were a Christian accident-only sharing policy, because it would be SO inexpensive, and if you know what I know, it would be an amazing solution!
Thank you again for your overview. As with many, we are in a situation where I lost my job and subsidized family medical coverage. Because my wife and I are older, traditional healthcare options (Traditional, COBRA) are all incredibly expensive (over $1,200/mo) with very high deductibles. Similarly, short-term policies are ~$800 with $10,000+ deductibles (and these are non-compliant).
Therefore a Christian healthcare option seems ideal (or at least a great option). Though we’re both committed Christians and have been active in praying for the sick (I was involved with the Healing Rooms for three years) I have no problem with traditional medical care, only the cost and outrageous deductibles.
After reading through your post and online materials I’m drawn to both Samaritan’s or Christian Healthcare Ministries. Since we are fine self-paying lesser amounts and pray we’ll back on an employer-paid policy in 3-6 months my main concern is catastrophic coverage so I’m trying to compare Samaritan’s including Save to Share with CHM’s Gold plus Brother’s Keeper.
Samaritan’s basic rate is $440/mo. plus a “Yearly Set-Aside” of $266 for Save to Share. CHM Gold would run $300/mo. plus ~$50/month for Brother’s Keeper.
The area I’m most confused with is Samaritan’s “Yearly Set-Aside.” Can you explain how that actually works?
Are there any other catastrophic coverage differences that I should focus on?
Your brother in Christ,
We do the save-to-share, and it adds around $10 to our monthly check. Set aside might mean that you commit to having that much on hand in case of catastrophe? I’m honestly not sure, sorry! Sounds like CHM might be a better deal for you – the one big thing to check for catastrophic is if there’s a limit. You hate to only get $250K if you have a million dollars in bills. Katie
Thank you Katie,
We went ahead and joined Samaritan Ministries. We also referenced you as our source, so hopefully you’ll get the referral credit.
Awesome, thanks Paul!
This article is very helpful, especially to those who have never heard of Health Share accounts. I joined Liberty Healthshare in April and I am not sure if they are recommended by you or approved by the ACA.
Jax – so sorry, never heard of that one!
I am diving into my own research on medical sharing ministries as we prepare to bring our first baby into the world later this year! We are hoping for me to be able to stay home with our baby, medical insurance is a big concern!
What I am not finding about Samaritan Ministries is the Annual portion or Personal share that is required for each family. Other plans tend to have an amount that is required for families to pay before the help comes in from other members. Can you provide some clarification on how this works with Samaritan??
With Samaritan, it’s pretty simple: You pay for any incident under $300, Samaritan starts sharing at anything over $300. So if you get treated for something and it’s $200 for labs and $150 for the doc visit, you can submit that for sharing. There’s no minimum that you have to pay OOP before you can get needs covered. Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie
How is maternity and child birth covered? Does it matter whether you have a hospital or home birth? Or need emergency procedures at birth?
Thank you for sharing your evaluations of the plans you examined. I offer a point of correction, or maybe clarification, regarding your bullet stating that “Any need over $300 is published.” We are Samaritan Ministry members, however, we learned that preventive screenings like colonoscopies cost $4000 or more in our area and are “not publishable” in Samaritan Ministries. So, the word “any” is misleading I am afraid. For us, we could send in for the “unpublished” help but there are no guarantees in this case. The conventional insurance option my employer offered would have covered this procedure and we may even be able to save a little bit of money when comparing monthly payments and deductibles between the two plans. I advise, as you did, for readers to be sure to do their homework in detail. Look forward in time for the big ticket preventive items that may be coming up (like mammograms and colonoscopies) and to be sure you are not caught off guard like us. Contributing to a personal savings account for health as one might for a new car is good idea.
Once again, thank you for your review!
Samaritan shares all qualifying needs (meeting the guidelines, which are available on their website) above $300. You are right that a routine colonoscopy isn’t shareable ($4000 is high, though, wow)… but if they find something during the procedure, like polyps, then it becomes shareable. And if you had to get one because of symptoms, then that’s shareable also. And, you can ask for discounts on that $4000 because you’re cash pay and not bound to an insurance contract. A resource like healthcarebluebook.com is a good starting point for find what something should cost in your area. I think members get pretty good about shopping around and asking what things cost. Definitely do homework before joining a ministry. They are a great thing, but just different enough from insurance we need to ask the questions that matter to us.
Definitely shop around for prices on the colonoscopy! Also, be up front with the doctor right away and let them know you are a “cash” patient. The should be able to provide with assistance forms right away! Don’t be afraid to fill our financial need forms-it can greatly reduce or even eliminate your bill.
Another option is a Direct Primary Care practice that offers membership like this place http://www.rekindlefamilymedicine.com/ You pay a monthly and all your visits with the physician are covered 100%. Combined with a catastrophic insurance, it complies to ACA. It would be a great addition to a sharing plan to cover preventive, well visit or even sick visit for younger children. We are hoping to own a business shortly and will be losing health coverage when we do, this is great information.
We love our Direct Care doc! They spend the time with you to really find out what’s going on. We find it cost-effective too, you just have to realize that you need to find the best deals on diagnostic tests etc, because you are going to pay out of pocket and costs vary wildly without rhyme or reason. What I have found is that something like a colonoscopy is thousands of dollars more when done in a hospital as an outpatient than when done in a free-standing surgical center. Do your research if it’s not an emergency and negotiate!
Thanks for the shout out, Caroline. Direct Primary Care is the way to practice medicine in the future, in my opinion. What’s not to love about having 24/7 access to your doctor, saving money, and having a relationship with your physician who cares about you and your health. It is truly a win-win situation for patients and doctors! This is a well written article comparing the various health sharing ministries as an alternative to traditional insurance. As insurance becomes more and more unwieldy and unaffordable, more value based options will arise. Direct Primary care is part of the answer! Patients are becoming savvy consumers and are comparing costs (as they should) and are demanding up front pricing (such as the costs posted on my website). Ultimately, competition in the marketplace will drive costs back DOWN where they should be! I’m so glad that word is catching on about Direct Primary Care and Rekindle Family Medicine.
Katie, can I link to this blog from an upcoming post I’m writing about the costs of healthcare, insurance, and alternatives?
I’m so excited to hear more about direct primary care too, Dr. Nalda, thank you for visiting – and of course you may link to this post, happy to share! 🙂 Katie
I tried to read thoroughly, but maybe I missed it. Does one (or all) of these count as insurance for those of us who live in states where insurance is required or you get a tax penalty? Do you get “proof of insurance” around tax time?
Christian Healthcare Ministries counts. No trouble with my taxes this year. CHM sent me instructions on how to fill out the tax forms.
Christian Healthcare ministries are by law exempt from obamacare requirements. As long as they existed before (I believe) 1998. There is a form you need to file with your taxes, but it is very simple and I know Samaritan and CHM send a notification about it.
Thanks for this article and keeping all of the comments.
I’ve lived in the world of outlying medical conditions for about a decade. And I have had to learn how to be my own advocate sometimes going against doctor advice and traveling for medical treatment. Very scary stuff coming from the daughter of a hospital administrator.
We have finally realised that whilst we want to be good stewards of money and take wise precaution, choosing one of the healthshare ministries is really an admission of knowing God’s going to take care of His flock.
I want to write this here because of the motorcycle incident above. That is horrible. And it has been one of my biggest fears. I am probably one of the few people who knew about the limit on prostheses (and we aren’t even members of any of the groups yet!). But I know that stuff because of my obsessive “what-if” scenarios. As we prayed for clarity, God orchestrated several things in our lives to demonstrate His headship and care for us.
At the end of the day, was I trusting Aetna, BlueCross, United Health, Samaritans, MediShare, CHM, etc, or was I going to trust the Lord to provide and care for me via any means He chose? The young couple with the horrible motorcycle accident above is a prime example of this concept. MediShare was not the way God chose to care for them; yet they are cared for. He was faithful. He will be faithful.
I am writing this for others to be reminded as they read these comments, but also for my own self because that “what if” fear loves to creep up and strangle me. It’s in God we rest; not insurance and not healthcare sharing.
So take heart, Friends! You cannot make a wrong move in choosing your coverage.
Greetings! I am so thankful for your blog about this. I am currently pregnant with baby #6. This is the first time none of us have insurance, first they dropped our pharmacy and now us. Dreadful! My question to you is if it’s too late to sign up for this when you are already pregnant? Thanks for your time.
With Christian healthcare Ministries you do need to be enrolled before you are pregnant for the birth to be covered. Congratulations!!!
I know Samaritan will, if you join, submit it to their members as what’s called a Special Prayer Need. Your pre-existing pregnancy will be excluded from standard sharing procedures, but the Special Prayer Need will be published in the newsletter sent out to ALL the members with a suggestion that all those who can send at least 20.00. Not sure how much you would get, but let’s face it, Christian folks love new members of the body of Christ and we love large families, so it would be better than nothing. Maybe someone else can chime in about how the other ones would handle it?
i’m considering going this route so your post is very helpful. thanks. 🙂 do you know offhand if either of the other two, CHM or MediShare, cover preventative costs? it looks like if you have lots of medical bills under $500 with CHM’s Gold program it could get pricey, but i like their unlimited coverage for catastrophic care with their add-on option. i read an article in the ny times and they said with Samaritan you need your pastor to verify something. is that just that you are an active church member or was it more than that?
You should definitely look into it more, but from my notes it sounds like *maybe* Medi-Share would sort of cover preventative because they have more a traditional insurance-type co-pay of $35 for office visits…but I’m still not positive it covers preventative.
As for the pastor’s signature, yes, just that we’re actually members of the church I believe. Nothing too scary. 🙂
What our family has found helpful is to combine Samaritan with membership in a direct care physician practice. These docs don’t usually take insurance and are a joy to deal with. We pay 175.00 monthly to our D.O.(just like an MD but does spinal and joint adjustments). The monthly fee covers a multitude of office procedures: adjustments, EKGs, minor labs (addt’l fee for those sent out),minor surgical procedures(biopsies,cyst/wart removals etc.),casting/splinting, OB care, PAP tests, yearly physicals. It covers most of what you would see a physician for. When we are seen he spends a long time with us discussing all sorts of things and giving a thorough physical exam – if you want that. I prefer minimal bother and he’s OK with that too.
What falls through the cracks are CAT scans, colonoscopies,MRIs, all the expensive diagnostic stuff. Our doc is great at finding the most cost-effective places to do these tests, but it is still a big expense. Many people recommend going to Costa Rica or Thailand, India etc, but as a former ICU nurse, I refuse to entertain the thought of having an invasive procedure somewhere that I can’t safely drink the water. Your surgeon is scrubbing for surgery in that very same water, as is the rest of the staff. Your food is also being prepared with that water,etc. There is also the question of how malpractice is addressed in a foreign country and I have read some horror stories. Sometimes people have no recourse.
You don’t actually have to be a church member, just a regular attender.
We chose CHM after thinking about it (and scared about it) for a long time. We had a great experience with the company. They were better than the traditional health insurance we had before. I would highly recommend them. We stopped using it when my husband and I both got jobs where insurance was a paid benefit.
Thank you for this post! My family will likely be moving back to the States soon, and I am choosy about my medical provider, so this information is a God-send. I’m curious to know what these three sharing ministries consider a medical provider. Only MDs and DOs? Are naturopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors, licensed nutritionists, etc considered medical providers or natural/alternative treatments?
Also, I like to get routine blood work done every year as a preventive measure. Am I understanding correctly that it would not be covered/published unless the test picked up a condition that is covered/publishable?
Very good questions! Yes, blood work as preventative measure is not covered – some docs will be able to reduce your cost if you’re self-pay, but not all.
A for alternative treatments, from my notes it looks like (at least a year ago) CHM does not cover alternative treatments, Medi-Share I’m not sure about (but they have a doctor “network” so I feel like that might be a bad sign), and Samaritan will approve alternative treatments on a case by case basis. At least it’s something! More than you’d get with traditional med insurance. Samaritan will cover midwives.
Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie
for blood tests, go to www.lef.org.
Thank you for this information.
This blog entry and comments are very helpful as my husband just left his full-time job to work as an independent contractor. It is clearly the best decision for our family and his health, but since we missed the 60 day window to enroll in insurance we were looking at the options of getting COBRA at $1,500 per month or having no coverage and spending up to $300 a month in penalty! We are very minimalist when it comes to using medical care and I would rather spend the money on other things that make us healthy, good food, exercise options, etc.
I also appreciated the comment about the motorcycle accident. We need to look at that closely as my husband rides a motorcycle. : (
Let me know if you need any more info, Theresa, and may God bless your search! 🙂 Katie
We have been with Samaritan since we moved here from Canada 3 years ago. We have had 2 accidents and a baby published.
We have never had to pay the $300 per incident, because I always spend a couple of months negotiating with providers for discounts to make things more affordable to everybody. It took some time and effort, but saved everybody money.
Samaritan reimbursed us for a home birth with a lay midwife. I called right away and worked out the details as soon as I knew I was pregnant. We paid her out of pocket and at the end I showed our expenses by the check register and prenatal chart – there were no receipts. It worked well.
I’m glad to hear how well it has gone for you. Can you explain a little more on your process that prevented the $300 offset you are responsible for? Did send initial bills to Samaritan for publishing and THEN negotiate the costs with the provider which allowed for the deduction that avoided the $300 you would have had to pay?
My husband broke his leg and the bills totaled about $5000.
I asked for discounts and kept negotiating with the billing departments of the hospitals/labs, etc. for several months. The different billing departments went around and around because they are not used to tenacious people who don’t just write a check the first time something gets “lost”, but they eventually ended up giving us varying discounts, based on our income or cash pay discount, etc.
I negotiated the total of all of the bills down to $1500 total, paid the bills and turned in the receipts to Samariatan. The $300 we were responsible for was considered paid by the discounts. (Negotiating the cost down leaves more money in the pool for other needs). Samaritan published the need and the next month I received 8 checks from Samaritan members that totaled $1500.
This is where it gets dicey for me. I’ve never received a reduction in cost for any bill, procedure, etc., unless it was cash-on-the- barrelhead.
My hat is off to anyone who can trim a 5000 dollar bill to a 1500 dollar bill, but your experience is not even in our universe.
Medi-Share just upped our month Share price and now it’s comparable to regular insurance. I’m shopping, but not terribly hopeful, especially when the push is on us to do the negotiating. It sounds like the family pays money up front and is then reimbursed down the road w/ CHM (the one we’re currently considering). If I were sitting on that kind of money—well, you get the picture…
I ask for a cash pay discount first. If they will do it that is usually 20 to 30%. (We set aside a bit of money each month to cover the initial payment and replenish our “medical” fund with the money sent by Samaritan share members.) In the case of the broken leg they didn’t do it, and I worked through the “need based help system”. The hospital usually has a “charity” department that will forgive a portion of the bill based on your financial status and number of dependents, etc. There is a bunch of hoops to jump through, and you might have to apply and be rejected for medicaid before they do. They ended up forgiving 100% of the hospital portion because of my persistence. It was well worth my time.
We signed up for Christian Medi-Share about a year ago. Several months later, my husband was in an accident while on his motorcycle. It wasn’t his fault at all as he was going the speed limit, wearing a helmet, ect. Long story short, he had to be flown to a trauma unit, lost his left leg and spleen, and had 4 surgeries total. Medi-share then informed us that they have a maximum payout for motorcycle accidents. It’s only $100,000. This of course, is a drop in the bucket compared to what we owe, which is close to half a million. That’s not counting a lifetime of prosthetics (ranging from 60-100 thosand dollars each) which need to be replaced about every 5 years. My husband is in his 30’s!!! All this to say, I’m sure they have other “stipulations” that no one knows about, that are written in the fine print of the fine print of their agreements. Just do your research before signing up. Just as a side note, we sought legal council, to see what we could do. We were told this was the worst possible “insurance” anyone could have. I can’t speak for the other two options, but he didn’t have anything good to say about medical sharing in general.
Oh, my goodness, that’s awful. I’m so sorry. What a traumatic experience on so many fronts, and to find out that you couldn’t be covered….oy. Does Medi-Share have a way to share needs that are ineligible to help you out? It is a really, really good reminder to read every single word of the guidelines. I assume the motorcycle part was in there? If not, you’ve got to have some grounds for a suit. I’m so sorry for you and your husband!! – Katie
Sorry, I’m just getting back to this question. Yes, they said we could sign up for a program to share the ineligible costs. The problem is my husband would need a life time of medical bills (prosthetics are expensive and need to be replaced every 3-5 years). Medi-share would pay for 1 for his lifetime. And with the $100,000 maximum payout, the sharing would have to total millions over his whole life. Not something that we felt was possible. Also, they have subrogation rights. That means they can claim any money we get from car insurance, etc (and they always do). So, to us it wasn’t worth pursuing since we thankfully had a few other options. Since, now I know how the story ends, I’m glad we chose to not use our health coverage. But it was a very stressful year and Medi-Share certainly didn’t make it any easier.
Wow that’s awful. Did your auto insurance not cover the medical? Trying to figure out all the worst case scenarios….
The boy who hit my husband was under insured. Our under insured/ uninsured did pay out some, but not nearly enough. What we received TOTAL from both those insurances was enough to cover his first prosthetic, and possibly his PT. When you are looking at over half a million in current medical bills and another million or more for future medical needs and everyone involved just kind shrugs and walks away, it’s pretty infuriating. Thankfully, my husband was working at the time of the accident (he does sales and was travelling for work). WC even tried to play the shrug and walk away game, but we were able to prove he was working and after about 9 months of fighting, we finally got a settlement. Yay!! Now we know his future needs will be met, and that’s a good feeling.
Wow, praise be to God for that coming through!! Way to fight it out!!
Great article and timing!
My husband is self-employed and we are uninsured – so far we’ve paid the penalty but the yearly increase in penalty is going to get out of hand soon so here I am trying to find a way around ACA…
So basically when a person reports a large medical bill/need to the collective whole they come alongside and pay it (within reason & restrictions) and each month your portion goes to help another believer…. That’s cool
What happens if you can’t write the check for the month?
That’s a really good question! Here’s the answer from the FAQs:
“SMI will send you a checklist so that you can keep track of who were assigned to send to your need. If we learn that someone on your list has stopped sharing and will not be sending to you, that amount will be reassigned in the following month to a member who is sharing. You must be current in your sharing responsibilities and other member requirements to have a need published.”
Your bills should always get covered as long as they are eligible! 🙂 Katie
We have been with CHM for over 12 years now. We are able to put aside $5000 to deal with our personal share, so we only pay $135 per month for our whole family. The one time that we had a large expense ($27,000 for a broken arm/surgery) we were able to get a reduction from the hospital, and that reduction was applied to our personal share, so we had no out-of-pocket expense at all. Read the allowable shared stuff very carefully. With CHM, at the bronze level, they don’t share anything at all for office visits, they only share hospitalizations and emergency room care (also home birth midwives) after the family has paid their $5000. Also, they don’t share anything for car accidents, so they recommend that your car insurance has a high coverage for personal medical costs. It can be confusing at first, but I can’t imagine spending hundreds or thousands per month for insurance (we are self-employed), and still have high deductibles, when we almost never go to doctors. Also, CHM offers an additional sharing program called Brothers Keeper which will share expenses up to one million dollars. We are happy with our choice.
Actually, the limit for Brother’s Keeper (through Christian Healthcare Ministries) is not one million. There is no limit.
The CHM website says Brothers Keeper has a $1 million limit for the Silver and Bronze plans so I think she’s correct for her level. Only for gold members is it unlimited.
Great explanation and summary. We’ve been with Samaritan Ministries for over 11 years now and love it. We’ve had great experiences each time we submitted a need and appreciate knowing that our shares are going toward the actual medical needs of real people.
I began researching the various Christian HealthShare options about this time last year. Samaritan’s has always been my #1 option. I haven’t switched from my employer’s insurance yet but I’ve decided it will be better if I do. I’ve paid for almost two years now for insurance I never use. In essence I feel like I’m throwing my money away right now with my insurance through my employer. Though the premiums in our group health plan are pretty affordable, the deductibles are now so high for that low premium that I will be unable to afford the bills to cover the deductible alone. My only remaining question before switching to Samaritan is the topic of preventative care. My current plan does offer 100% (no deductible) for things like Mammograms and PAP. Are things like that considered along with all other medical care in the “above $300” description?
One more thing… can you give more information on the natural/alternative coverage? Or where can I get more information on that? That is a big deal and exciting to read since I choose natural over anything else first. But wondering how far that description reaches. Thanks for the great post!
Unfortunately, preventative care is not publishable with Samaritan. We spaced out our well-child checkups a bit more, PAPs are only rec’d once every 3 years now (I have midwife who does them for about $50, so that’s awesome!), and we’ll probably do adult physicals every other year instead of yearly. Some members have found that they can get colonoscopys and such in Costa Rica for less than here – including the plane tickets and a vacation! I’ve been impressed with Samaritan’s newsletter and the interesting ideas they offer for finding appropriately priced healthcare options.
I wish I knew more about what natural and alternative coverage Samaritan offers. They are very helpful in the office so I’m sure you could call if you have specific questions. Here is a bit from their guidelines:
“Alternative Medical Practices (or non-
medical practice” or “treatment” is a treatment
proposed by a member for a condition lawful
ly diagnosed by a licensed, medical profession
al, but not prescribed by the member’s pro
vider. The member must present the request
in writing, describing in detail the proposed
treatment, the length of time envisioned for
the treatment, their source of information
about the treatment, and why it is not being
prescribed by their provider. Alternative treat
ments may be published with prior written
approval from Samaritan Ministries. Approval
is based upon factors such as the less invasive
nature of the proposed treatment, demonstra
tion that such treatment will prevent more
costly conventional treatments, consistency
of the treatment with what a licensed medical
provider would prescribe for illness or injury,
and the member’s acceptance of appropriate
preconditions for publishing the expense”
And actually colonoscopy was on the same page:
” colonoscopy will be pub
lishable when prescribed due to symptoms for
a condition not evident prior to your mem
bership, or when it results in the discovery
of a publishable condition. Regular tests and
checkups (see #34) are not publishable”
Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie
Thanks for sharing this info! My children don’t have health insurance because we cant afford $600 a month and they only go in for well checks which are yearly and dental checks twice a year. I’ve never heard of these options before but they seem very helpful. We are stressed about getting penalized this tax year because of not taking the insurance offer by Marketplace. It just doesn’t make sense to us and we are Christians so I appreciate you sharing this information. Thanks.
This sounds like a good fit, Alica – I hope it works out for your family! 🙂 Katie
I guess I’m a little slow at understanding. Do you pay a monthly fee to Samaritan? Or does the monthly fee go to someone who needs it? If you pay it to Samaritan what do they do with the money? And do you pay the monthly fee plus the sharing amount? Thanks for the info.
No worries, Patty – the “monthly fee” goes directly to another member. Nothing goes to Samaritan each month. So the sharing amount and monthly fee are the same. Technically the first two months went to Samaritan for office expenses, but then after that we receive an actual name and address each month and send the entire $405 to them. Hope that’s more clear! 🙂 Katie
Thanks for this timely post! My husband recently quit a great job so that he could start his own business and work from home. We’ve been trying to figure out what to do. Thanks for sharing this unique option.
Maybe I missed it, in my fast reading with lots of kids in the background….how does Samaritan officially comply with the ACA?
Hi Heather – congrats on the new entrepreneurial lifestyle!! It’s exciting and scary I’m sure, but good for you guys to take the leap!
To answer your question, YES, healthcare sharing ministries totally comply. All 3 were very careful to get that straightened out when the ACA began. Here is from the Sam. site:
“This approach satisfies the federal health care law’s (Affordable Care Act, U.S. Public Law 111-148) requirement that you have insurance or pay a penalty-tax (see 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d), (2), (B)). Members of health care sharing ministries demonstrate their exemption by using IRS Form 8965 when filing their tax return. If you are not required to file a tax return, you do not need to do anything to prove your exemption. http://samaritanministries.org/healthreform/”
Blessings on your new adventure! 🙂 Katie
We have been with Christian Healthcare Ministries for over a year now. It is WONDERFUL!! I don’t have to worry about my money going to fund abortion or contraception. I also get to choose my own healthcare provider. Now with the big pharmaceutical push, I am not worried about an insurance company dictating my medical care. So glad to hear that Samaritan Ministries is strong as well. CHM worked better for us due to pre-exiting medical issues.
Roxy – that’s great to know! I must have missed it – CHM accepts pre-existing conditions then? I should amend my post, thank you! 🙂 Katie
They pay for pre-existing conditions on a sliding scale – $15000 the first year, $25000 the second year (15,000 from the first year plus an extra 10,000) and $50,000 the third (15000 first year, 10000 the second, and 25,000 the third) . After the third year, the condition is no longer considered pre-existing. We filed a claim for my husband’s recent medical issues and they paid all the bills without question and gave us credit off of our deductible for the discounts I arranged. Anthem never did that 😉
Thank you much, Roxy! I added your note to within the post. 🙂 Katie
Thanks so much for sharing this information! We’re currently happy with my husband’s insurance plan through work, but ya just never know…. Anyway, my question is whether or not vision needs are covered. Everyone in our household needs corrective lenses and the cost can be quite prohibitive, even with the excellent plan we have. Just wondered about that since nothing was mentioned.
Good question, Christi – vision and dental are not included in any of the options, if I remember correctly. It only affects one in our family, so it’s not as big of a deal. –Katie
Thanks, Katie. I figured as much but thought I’d ask just to be sure.
Do you have any opinion on Liberty Health Share?
Yes, I have the same Question about Liberty.
Also, I read somewhere else that the actual number of members for each varies quite a bit, but have not been able to find “how many” members each ministry has, or maybe more of telling, how much it fluctuates each month or year, by members and percentage.
Thank You Katie. Sure appreciate your time and sharing of this information. God bless you. -Wayne
The main 3 ministries of Samaritan, CHM and Medishare all have over 200,000 members. Liberty has about 30,000 according to a comment I saw on another blog. The biggest increases come during open enrollment. Especially January 1 as they switch off old insurance. We are members of Samaritan and love it!
Heather and Wayne, I’m not sure that’s accurate about Samaritan – I could swear that a recent newsletter announced that we just passed 40 or 45K or something – much smaller than 200K. But they’re very open with their numbers and I’m sure someone could get on the phone with you, Wayne, to answer questions. 🙂 Katie
Samaritan has over 60,000 households which is the number they tend to focus on, but those households make up over 200,000 members, and they are very similar in size to the other 2 primary ministries. 🙂 I actually just got those numbers updated by Samaritan a couple weeks ago.
I found this on the http://thehealthcoop.com/ website FAQ:
How many people are members of Samaritan Ministries?
As of October 2015, there were more than 51,000 households representing more than 160,000 individuals.
Apparently Samaritan can be included in a “The Health Co-Op” membership, or one can use Samaritan stand-alone.
Sorry Brian, I’ve not even heard of that one – but search the comments here because some people have mentioned other sharing projects and maybe that one.
Brian, we’re researching Liberty and they told me today on the phone they currently have over 60,000 members. Or households. What I like about Liberty is that wellness visits and tests are included in the shareable costs, outside of the annual deductible.
Sue, I like the sound of wellness exams being covered by Liberty.
Makes you want to strive to stay well!
Preventive procedures like annual check ups, mammograms and colonoscopy exams were covered under my “Well Woman” program previously offered by my Blue Cross plan; but I cannot sustain their heightened premiums.$450 is way more affordable than the Bronze level of Blue [email protected]$700++
Katie.I appreciate your analysis..is Samaritan a good plan for a healthy 61 year old retired widow? could my taking thyroid meds be considered a pre existing condition?
Hi Charlotte – I do believe that Samaritan’s plans for a single person are very affordable, but I admit I didn’t study them closely. 🙂 As for the pre-existing condition, I would give them a call and ask directly. That’s the one area I can’t even predict! Good luck! 🙂 Katie
Great info. I’m so glad you shared this. I wish I’d seen it before we made our decision.
We went with CHM about 3 years ago on the recommendation of a friend. It’s right for us with the automated payments.
We don’t go to medical doctors, and have never had to use it. Basically, it’s insurance against the IRS for the ACA, and for the unforseen accident, ie broken bones, stitches. etc.
Thank you for sharing this! We are in the process of debating between Samaritan and CHM. We are in a similar situation as you and the hardest part of the decision is my husband has Ulcerative Colitis, although he has been able to control it with diet for the almost 2 years. Praise God. We have a few friends with Samaritan and have had multiple published needs that were 100% paid for! That might be our better options. Thanks again!