I like health care sharing ministries, but I’ve always suspected they work best as a true ministry whose members are people of faith with shared values. It you truly believe you are your brother’s keeper and he is yours, you may be able to pool health resources if you can all agree on a common set of rules. I like that sharing ministries can dispense with Obamacare mandates that drive up the price of insurance and force people to subsidize services they don’t view as necessary.
Consumers who want to join a sharing ministry should check to make sure the sharing ministry plan is right for them the same as they would for Obamacare plans. Many sharing ministries either have a waiting period or do not cover pre-existing conditions, for example. Many (if not all) have specific criteria for things they will not cover. These include claims such as drug addiction treatment, sometimes even out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
According to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries (AHCSM) there are 108 nonprofits certified as meeting the definition of a sharing ministry. About 1.5 million Americans living in all 50 states are members of a sharing ministry. The total amount of bills shared was approximately $2 billion in 2020. That’s roughly $1,333 per member. The AHCSM is the trade association for sharing ministries.
Kaiser Health News uncovered some aggressive marketing by a Texas sharing ministry that enrolled people who didn’t even realize they were enrolling in a health sharing ministry. Tina Passione went online and googled for Obamacare plans. She soon began receiving phone calls from brokers trying to sell her insurance. She ultimately signed up for a plan costing $384 a month thinking it was Obamacare. She had inadvertently signed up with a Houston-based health care sharing ministry called Jericho Share. She later cancelled coverage when she couldn’t get answers about which services would be covered. Kaiser Health News talked to nearly a dozen people who joined Jericho Share when they thought they were buying insurance. That’s odd because I recall that years ago you had to attend church and get a reference from your pastor to join a sharing ministry.
The AHCSM recently began a program to accredit sharing ministries on a set of criteria. That is an important step that will help consumers vet bad actors. The AHCSM recently identified Sharity Ministries as a sham front group for a for-profit company in Georgia. Sharity declared bankruptcy and liquidated last year leaving about 10,000 members with unpaid claims. An investigation found Sharity Ministries only spent 16% of premiums to pay claims. That figure should have been 80% to 85% of premiums spent on medical care. AHCSM accreditation will be a great help for consumers going forward.