Healthcare Sharing: The (Legal) Escape from Obamacare

February 7, 2019

By Dan Treat

Note: Dan will be making a guest appearance to discuss this topic with Bill Sayre on Common Sense Radio this coming Tuesday, February 12, at 11am on WDEV FM 96.1 and AM 550.

Every year more than 1 million individuals across the United States benefit from healthcare sharing instead of purchasing health insurance. Back in 2009, Obamacare exempted healthcare sharing ministries already in existence from the individual mandate requirement. This allowed thousands of Americans to decrease the financial risk of an unforeseen healthcare expense by joining one of several organizations that aligned with their values.

I joined one of these  organizations, Christian Healthcare Ministries, 9 years ago.  I was between jobs at that time and did not have access to low cost health insurance.  Since then they have saved me thousands of dollars in medical expenses.  Back in 2012 I had to go to the hospital for surgery and CHM came through by helping share the  cost of the surgery.  Also around that time I was battling an unknown condition that blurred my vision and caused painful burning and itching in my eyes.  I received cards in the mail from fellow members who said they were praying for me and wished me well.

Founded in 1981, Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is a 501c3 tax exempt organization that operated in all 50 states.  They are a non-profit, faith-based ministry that assists its members in paying for health care costs. CHM’s mission is based on a Bible passage commanding Christians to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”  (Galatians 6:2).

CHM offers 3 different levels of participation: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.  Gold level members are asked to pay a monthly gift amount of $150 and have a personal responsibility (think deductible) of $500 per incident.  Silver members pay $85 monthly with a $1000 responsibility level, and Bronze members pay $45/month with a $5000 responsibility level.  Members are encouraged to ask for discounts on their medical bills and CHM will assist them in negotiating discounts with their health care providers.

The Gold level has some additional features that the other levels do not.  For example, certain pregnancy related expenses and expenses related to physical therapy are eligible for sharing.  Bills for ambulance transportation under certain circumstances may also qualify for assistance.  In addition, Gold members have some extra help for pre-existing conditions

Regarding pre-existing conditions, another helpful feature is the prayer page.  The prayer page is a section of CHM’s monthly newsletter that lists medical needs that do not qualify for assistance through the regular CHM program.  CHM members are invited to give above and beyond their monthly gifts to help fellow Christians.  All such contributions are tax deductible.

Last year, our legislators passed a bill prohibiting Vermonters from refusing to buy health insurance, and did not explicitly exempt health sharing ministries like CHM. This means that Vermonters may have to pay a penalty for not having insurance, even if they are part of an organization that “shares,” expenses. The possible exemption, and possible penalties will likely be discussed at the Legislature in the coming months.

For anyone wishing for more specific information on how CHM operates, go to www.CHMinistries.org.

Dan Treat is a lifelong Vermonter and a friend of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in South Burlington.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Shepard February 9, 2019 at 9:24 pm

Our family has been a member of a health sharing organization (Samaritans Ministries – https://samaritanministries.org/) for several years. In this time my wife, Rebecca, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the following year or so, she had a double mastectomy, chemo treatments and radiation. We had to pay $300 for all of that. Rebecca’s conversations with Samaritans Ministries was radically different and in a good way than what we have heard is the general case with either insurance or government coverage. They clearly valued her life and her as a person. Because we were reimbursed by personal checks from other members, just as we monthly send checks to others with health care expenses, it made us very conscience that our savings would impact every member. Neither SM or we let that impact the type of care, including getting second opinions, which SM encouraged her to do. But it did make us seek ways to save money, one of which was to pay right off from our savings as we could, which saved 10%. Being self-payers, also made it much easier on the hospital and so we got sizable savings because of that. While having breast cancer was something we certainly wish never happened, we believe her experience through that was made better by the care of SM and the notes of encouragement and prayers by those members who helped shoulder the costs. Our experience was the Free Market in action. Never was there anyone in between us and the providers, trying to control things. These are great and I cannot over recommend it. If you want healthcare in the US to move toward a free market system, switch to health sharing if you can. It is not for everyone, but for us, we love it. People voluntarily caring for people.

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David Flemming February 11, 2019 at 8:57 pm

Wow Mark, that is an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.

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