By Christopher Jin
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for people to be aware of every potential healthcare option available to them, as well as the pros and cons of each option. Either way, 2021 could potentially present a new healthcare landscape, especially in the United States as a new administration prepares to take over and certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remain in legal limbo.
Healthcare sharing ministries (HCSM) are another choice for people seeking an alternative to traditional healthcare insurance or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most HCSMs primarily act as a facilitator for the sharing of medical financial burdens by strengthening the member-to-member connection that occurs through the voluntary healthcare sharing process. It’s imperative these 501(c)(3) organizations provide clear program guidelines, tools, and resources to its members to maximize benefits and lower administrative costs. And while that information is clear to their members, there are still plenty of misconceptions about HCSMs and how they work.
The myth: There are no affordable alternatives to the ACA or traditional insurance
- Healthcare sharing programs are becoming very popular, serving as many as 2 million people throughout the country.
- UHSM health share programs can save members up to 40 percent on medical costs compared to the ACA.
- Healthcare sharing programs are also ideal for the 60 million workers in the U.S. gig economy who aren’t covered by an employer-sponsored insurance plan.
- Freelancers and non-freelancers share most of the same top concerns, including access to affordable healthcare, according to “Freelancing in America: 2019”, the most comprehensive measure of the country’s independent workforce.
The myth: Medical bills will not be paid if you’re a member of a healthcare sharing ministry
- Unlike traditional insurance plans, most 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, while some programs’ members pay one another directly.
- The collective group has a larger financial pool from which to draw than individuals on their own, creating a community of like-minded, healthy people who can more effectively lower health care costs by working together.
- Some healthcare sharing ministries contract directly with doctors to perform medical reviews before accepting members.
- This unique medical review process, coupled with a care confirmation process at time of service which helps reduce medical expense waste, ensures that medical expenses get paid on time while avoiding delays or denied claims for patients with pre-existing conditions.
The myth: HCSM requirements are too strict
- HCSM eligibility requires members to meet a short list of qualifications, which includes maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, with the understanding that this program is for those dedicated to Christian beliefs and values.
- HCSMs shouldn’t discriminate by religious sect or specific dogma and should instead embrace a healthy, Christian belief in holistic well-being.
- Membership can be denied for those who abuse alcohol and drugs, among other non-Christian or non-healthy behaviors.
The myth: Prescriptions aren’t covered by healthcare sharing ministries
- Prescription prices are continuing to rise, and many patients are shouldering higher costs for their medicines. Recognizing this challenge, UHSM members who choose a prescription program have access to pre-negotiated pricing through the CVS Caremark network. Although UHSM is the only HCSM to offer prescriptions right now, all HCSMs will offer some form of prescription sharing program starting on Jan. 1 of 2021.
The myth: HCSMs are all the same
As with traditional health insurance – or any number of other services for that matter – HCSMs differ from one another in terms of who they accept, the services they offer and the conditions they’re willing to cover. But for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle through a community of like-minded people while also saving money getting many of the same services they’d receive through traditional health insurance, an HCSM is certainly an excellent option.
Christopher Jin is President of UHSM.