When Joseph unexpectedly lost his job in 2015, we lost our health insurance, too.
Since I was already self-employed as a blogger, we decided that Joseph would join me in full-time online entrepreneurship rather than try to find another job. However, that meant a grueling (and confusing!) search for affordable healthcare options.
And as we soon discovered, health insurance is never more expensive than when you have to purchase it yourself!
We settled on the Affordable Care Act for our first year and planned on re-upping for the second. But when the enrollment period opened up again, the price had nearly doubled (oh the irony!), sending us right back to square one.
Let's try this again
Friends of ours recommended a healthcare sharing ministry, so we thought, “Why not?” We liked it enough that Christian Healthcare Ministries has become our healthcare of choice for the last two years. 🙂
Here's the thing, though—sharing ministries can be a little confusing to understand at first. You might be thinking:
- Are sharing ministries legit health insurance?
- How does it work?
- Do I have to be a Christian to join?
- What do they cover?
- When will I get paid?
Here's my Christian Healthcare Ministries review so you can decide whether or not a sharing ministry is worth the switch, and more specifically, if Christian Healthcare Ministries is the right choice for you and your family. Let's dive in!
1. What is Christian Healthcare Ministries?
Christian Healthcare Ministries is not technically a health insurance—they use the term “health cost sharing ministry.” In other words, members contribute a monthly “financial gift” toward other members' medical bills.
CHM offers three different program levels, ranging from a $5,000 deductible (lowest coverage) to no responsibility if the incident exceeds $500 (highest coverage). And just like a normal bill, you make monthly payments based on your chosen program level.
You can also enroll in Brother's Keeper (a catastrophic plan that costs $50 a quarter and provides unlimited coverage).
2. How does it work?
Before getting into the nitty gritty, this is super important to know: CHM calculates coverage per incident.
Sometimes this can be one medical bill, but often it's many bills combined.
For example:When Joseph broke his elbow (you don't even want to know how), all doctor's bills, x-rays, and therapy related to that one incident were totaled together. And we paid everything out of pocket. Once the bills reached $500, we submitted for sharing. However, if I went to the doctor for a regular checkup and the cost was $120, I cannot submit that for sharing.
Here's a more detailed look at what to do after an incident happens:
- Go to the doctor or hospital and tell them you are a self-pay patient (the medical community does not recognize sharing ministries as insurance). Don't forget to ask for any available discounts. CHM wants to see that you've tried to negotiate the cost before requesting help.
- Pay every medical bill related to the incident out of pocket.
- Keep bills and receipts together in a separate folder.
- When the incident totals more than $500, fill out a Needs Processing Form and Letter of Explanation Form online. Attach all supporting documents.
- Receive payment in the mail OR a letter requesting additional information.
Note: I only have experience with CHM, but Michelle from Making Sense of Cents gives you a good overview of all the other sharing ministries and how they work. The process you go through for each one is very similar!
Besides the perk of affordable payments (Joseph and I pay $300 total on their highest coverage plan), here are a few other pros that I always mention when others ask for my Christian Healthcare Ministries review:
- CHM is exempt from the healthcare mandate, which means no penalty.
- If you have a pre-existing condition in “maintenance mode,” you can still join.
- They have a very extensive maternity program from what I hear—I haven't used it yet!
- You can choose your own healthcare provider (as long as they accept self-pay patients).
- Enrollment is open to all 50 states (and internationally!)
And did I mention they are super affordable?!
As with any healthcare option, there are some downsides too:
- Even with the highest coverage plan, you still have to pay everything out of pocket, and if the incident is under $500, you are personally responsible for it. So you're gonna want a healthy Emergency Fund!
- Refunds can take a while. The max is supposed to be 120 days, but we've had it take even longer.
- Alternative medicine is not covered. I went to a naturopathic doctor and they only paid for the lab work, not the visit.
- There is no dental/vision program or prescription benefits (unless related to an incident). We currently use Delta Dental for $35 a month, and I get all my prescriptions at Sam's Club (their annual membership helps keep costs down).
- You do not have to be a Christian to join, but CHM's guidelines require that you do not smoke, don't do drugs, don't get drunk, and attend group worship regularly. Will they check up on you? Probably not. But any incidents resulting from use of addictive substances will of course not be covered and could even result in removal from the program.
The perfect healthcare option
I often get asked, what do you do for healthcare? Especially now that we are both self-employed full-time RV travelers!
I think the reason for asking is more than just curiosity; it's because no one is ever satisfied with their own healthcare.
Either the deductible is too high or the coverage is too low. The monthly payment is a strain on the budget. Claims get denied and you have no idea why. The process of understanding what gets covered and what doesn't is downright irritating.
But you basically have four choices:
- Get traditional insurance (either yourself or through an employer)
- Use the Affordable Care Act
- Try a healthcare sharing ministry
- Pad your medical fund and wing it (but you'll pay a penalty each year you do)
In my experience with the first three, a healthcare sharing ministry like CHM makes the most sense.
It doesn't have the high cost of traditional insurance (thus allowing you to add more to your Emergency fund if you would like), you don't pay a penalty, and almost everything medically is covered.
If the only thing standing between you joining a sharing ministry is fear of the unknown, I hope this post helped calm those fears. Because even with the various cons I mentioned, a sharing ministry is the best option for Joseph and I during this time in our lives, and it might just be the perfect fit for you too!
Let's chat about healthcare sharing ministries:
Do you have any specific questions about using a company like CHM?
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.