Health Shares vs Traditional Health Insurance: Understanding the Pros and Cons

Updated on May 2, 2024

Healthcare coverage is a crucial aspect of financial planning and well-being for individuals and families. Two primary options stand out in navigating the healthcare landscape: health shares and traditional health insurance. Each option has its own pros and cons, making it essential for individuals to understand the differences and make informed decisions. 

Understanding Health Shares: Pros and Cons

Health shares, also known as health sharing ministries, operate on cooperative principles where members contribute to a collective fund that covers medical expenses. The key advantages of health shares include:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Health shares often have lower monthly contributions than traditional health insurance plans, making them attractive for budget-conscious individuals and families.
  • Flexibility in Coverage: Health shares offer flexibility in coverage options, allowing members to customize their plans based on their healthcare needs.
  • Community Support and Shared Values: Health shares foster community and shared values among members, creating a supportive environment for managing healthcare costs.

Despite their benefits, health shares also have limitations and drawbacks that individuals should consider:

  • Limited Coverage: Health shares may have limited coverage for certain medical services, such as pre-existing conditions, which can impact access to necessary treatments.
  • Eligibility Criteria and Exclusions: Health shares often have eligibility criteria and exclusions based on lifestyle choices or religious beliefs, which may affect membership and coverage.
  • Financial Risks: Since health shares operate on a cooperative model, there can be financial risks associated with funding medical expenses collectively, especially for high-cost treatments.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Health Insurance

Traditional health insurance plans offer comprehensive coverage and established networks of healthcare providers. The key advantages include:

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Traditional health insurance plans typically offer comprehensive coverage for various medical services, including preventive care, specialist consultations, and hospitalizations.
  • Network of Healthcare Providers: Traditional insurance plans have established networks of healthcare providers and facilities, providing access to a wide range of healthcare services.
  • Predictable Costs: Traditional insurance plans often have predictable costs, such as copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, which can help individuals budget for healthcare expenses.

While traditional health insurance plans offer comprehensive coverage, they also come with certain drawbacks:

  • Higher Premiums: Traditional health insurance plans generally have higher monthly premiums than health shares, which can be a significant cost factor for individuals and families.
  • Limited Flexibility: Traditional insurance plans may have limited coverage options, with strict guidelines on covered services and treatments.
  • Administrative Complexities: Dealing with insurance paperwork, claims processing, and navigating coverage details can be complex and time-consuming under traditional health insurance plans.

Cost Comparison: Health Shares vs Traditional Insurance

When comparing the costs of health shares and traditional insurance, several factors come into play:

  • Monthly Premiums: Health shares typically have lower monthly premiums than traditional insurance plans. However, it’s essential to consider the coverage and services included in each plan.
  • Deductibles and Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Traditional insurance plans often have deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that individuals must meet before coverage. Health shares may have similar structures or alternative cost-sharing arrangements.
  • Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions: Traditional insurance plans are required to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Health shares may have different policies regarding pre-existing conditions, which can impact access to certain treatments and services.
  • Overall Cost-Effectiveness: To determine overall cost-effectiveness, individuals should consider their healthcare needs, budgetary constraints, and the level of coverage required for themselves and their families.

For comprehensive health share coverage, check out Health Share 101.

Eligibility and Accessibility Considerations

Health shares may have eligibility criteria based on the following:

  • Age restrictions
  • Health status assessments
  • Lifestyle considerations (e.g., tobacco use, alcohol consumption)

Traditional insurance plans typically provide access to:

  • In-network healthcare providers
  • Preferred hospitals and facilities
  • Referral networks for specialists

Considerations for Individuals with Specific Health Needs

Individuals with specific health needs should consider the following factors when choosing between health shares and traditional insurance:

  • Chronic Conditions: If you have chronic conditions requiring ongoing treatment and specialist care, traditional insurance plans may offer more comprehensive coverage and access to specialized services.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: Health shares may have limitations or waiting periods for coverage of pre-existing conditions, whereas traditional insurance plans are required to provide coverage under the ACA.
  • Prescription Medications: Evaluate the prescription drug coverage offered by each option, including copayments, formulary restrictions, and access to specialty medications.
  • Alternative Therapies: If you seek alternative or non-traditional treatments, check if health shares or traditional insurance plans cover these.


In conclusion, both health shares and traditional health insurance have pros and cons, making it essential for individuals to assess their unique healthcare needs and financial situations. Health shares offer cost-effective options, flexibility in coverage, and community support but may have limitations and eligibility criteria. Traditional insurance plans provide comprehensive coverage, established networks, and predictable costs but often have higher premiums and administrative complexities.

Health shares can be a viable option for individuals seeking affordable coverage with flexibility, especially for those who align with the program’s values and eligibility requirements. However, individuals with complex healthcare needs or specific medical conditions may benefit from the comprehensive coverage and network access offered by traditional insurance plans.

Ultimately, the decision between health shares and traditional insurance depends on individual preferences, risk tolerance, budget considerations, and long-term healthcare planning. It’s crucial to research and compare options, consult with healthcare professionals, and make informed decisions prioritizing health and financial well-being.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.