As patients look at the insurance options available in the 2023 open enrollment period, they would be wise to consider a health care sharing program for their coverage. Health care sharing ministries (also called health sharing plans) believe that medical insurance should be affordable, flexible, and governed by patient choice.
Based on the faith values of bearing another’s burden, health care sharing programs are not technically insurance, yet they satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate as an alternative to insurance plans.
With more than one million enrollees, health care sharing is attractive for several reasons, foremost because it costs half the price of regular health insurance. Sharing programs are not subject to costly federal regulation or forced to offer unnecessary benefits under the ACA, thus, they are able to offer significantly less expensive premiums than other insurance options. Health care sharing essentially operates as catastrophic insurance; patients pay low monthly shares each month but higher out-of-pocket costs before organizational sharing begins.
Critics argue that lower costs are the result of inadequate coverage. However, HSA for America states, “Unlike insurance, health share plans are designed to protect people against their most critical medical costs. Meanwhile, they’re not wasting your money on all the extra coverage that is never being used.”
In addition, members almost always receive discounted rates because clinics and hospitals view them as self-pay and charge them a lower price. Furthermore, health care sharing programs have fewer administrative costs than regular insurance. Sharing programs allow members to choose a program tailored to their needs. Whether it’s increased coverage for preventative care or the most basic program, health care sharing boasts individuality and options.
Importantly, the patient — not the insurance company — controls treatment options. Because there are no network restrictions, members have choice over their health care. They can see their preferred doctor which leads to greater satisfaction, higher-quality care and lower costs.
Sharing programs typically have more comprehensive coverage. Unlike traditional insurance, the cap on health care sharing is often higher, and some do not even include a limit. As Health Sharing Reviews states, “Members can have peace of mind, knowing that their medical expenses will be paid for in the event of a serious illness or accident — without a big leftover bill.”
Health sharing brings a unique sense of community. Built around the concept of sharing the needs of others, members feel seen, known, and truly cared for. As one member of a health sharing plan wrote, joining “makes sense both financially and spiritually. I am not just a number.”
Despite numerous benefits to health sharing, some are hesitant to join. Occasionally, this is because members are required to attest to a statement of faith and refrain from certain unhealthy activities. The most prominent reason, however, is the waiting period for members with pre-existing conditions. Coverage for pre-existing conditions (defined by Liberty HealthShare as “signs or symptoms and/or have received treatment and/or medication within the past 36 months”) varies. Typically, those with pre-existing conditions must wait 24 months before these needs are covered through sharing.
Health care sharing should be strongly considered by anyone who is generally healthy or who wishes to have affordability and freedom over their health care options. Patients who switch to health care sharing will enjoy more choices over medical treatment and more money in their pocket at the end of the year. Health care sharing programs put the patient in charge — a refreshing change from one-size-fits-all corporate restrictions on coverage and care.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not represent an official position of Alpha News.