How Health Sharing Programs Put the ‘Open’ in ‘Open Enrollment’

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These days, finding quality, affordable healthcare options is more important than ever, so here’s how individuals and families can enroll 365 days a year.

It’s no secret that, even under relatively normal circumstances, the American healthcare system can be challenging to navigate. But as businesses continue to struggle and the job market remains unpredictable, alternatives to employer-sponsored healthcare have become all the more important. Either way, an all-important step toward making sure you’re covered is understanding Open Enrollment.

Among Americans, less than 12 percent are aware of the Open Enrollment timeline, which differs from state to state, usually between Nov.1 and Dec. 15. This timeframe is vitally important, as it’s the only time to sign up or change healthcare coverage. Aside from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which you and apply and enroll at any time of the year, Special Enrollment is the only way to change a healthcare plan, which requires certain events like getting married, having a baby or losing coverage to qualify. 

Those with job-based healthcare plans have alternative enrollment periods and additional resources to guide them. In contrast, those who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance plans, including the self-employed or people who get insurance on the individual market, must independently navigate these systems and programs. In a year like 2020, that number grew significantly as nearly 27 million Americans may have lost their health insurance connected with their job due to mass layoffs during the pandemic. There are many options available, but an often overlooked option is a health care sharing ministry (HCSM). 

HCSMs are another choice for people seeking an alternative to traditional healthcare insurance or the Affordable Care Act. These programs are not traditional insurance but rather a unique healthcare option that unites Christian, health-conscious people together to care for one another and share in the medical costs as a faithful community. 

Unlike conventional insurance coverage, health share ministry programs are set up for members to pay a monthly share contribution, which is recorded and deposited into escrow on each member’s behalf. Members are then able to request payments for eligible medical expenses. The idea is that the collective group has a larger financial pool from which to draw than individuals on their own; and that a community of like-minded, healthy people can more effectively lower health care costs if they work together. HCSMs aid in the cost of a typical doctor’s visit to prescriptions and treatments. 

UHSM Health Share, a nonprofit, faith-based organization founded on Christian beliefs and values, has teamed up with AnnualOpenEnrollment.com and SureCo Health Care Agency to ensure individuals and families have the resources they need to navigate Open Enrollment. This collaboration’s primary focus is to explain how it works and what health care options best fit each specific situation in the coming year. Through its partnership with SureCo, an independent and unbiased broker contracted with the largest insurance carriers nationwide, and specialists in health sharing, individuals looking for healthcare can get overall health and wellness consultations, including options on health share programs if applicable. The agency also offers group health, critical illness, dental, and vision care that drives down costs. 

As part of the UHSM and AnnualOpenEnrollment.com initiative, users can download a free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Open Enrollment, highlighting the three critical components to how open enrollment keeps healthcare costs low and why health share is a popular choice for individuals and families. These would include:

  • Current Economic Situation: During the pandemic that hit the US in early 2020, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. While some have been able to return to work, there are still many without jobs and health coverage. 
  • Political Uncertainty: The current political climate has created significant levels of uncertainty regarding healthcare.
  • Various Mainstream Alternatives: Aside from job-based healthcare coverage, there are many options and plans available for those looking for affordable healthcare, including HCSMs, Primary Care Memberships, Health Savings Accounts, and more. 

These alternatives to healthcare have seen significant growth in recent years. While not a new concept, healthcare sharing programs have seen a dramatic increase in membership. Today, more than two million Americans are enrolled in an HCSM program, and that number continues to grow as more people seek out flexible and affordable alternatives to traditional health insurance. To learn even more about Open Enrollment and the many healthcare options open to you, please visit AnnualOpenEnrollment.com.

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