- 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
- 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, and CMF CURO) in this review and comparison (updated October 2021) — 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 2021)!
- Includes a “save to share” option for very large medical emergencies. (We do use this option!)
UPDATE: We finally 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.
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.
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.
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!)
- 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 2021!).
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.