As new federal health coverage requirements are taking effect, some Americans are looking for alternatives to coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace.
One alternative that has increased in popularity since the passage of the Affordable Care Act is health care sharing ministries, which are non-profit groups where members help each other pay medical bills.
Health Care sharing ministries
Three major health care sharing ministries are Samaritan Ministries, Christian Care Ministry’s MediShare and Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHC). These groups collect monthly “shares” from members and redistribute money to households that have submitted accepted bills or “needs” to the ministry.
The monthly shares paid by members are significantly cheaper than the premiums of regular health insurance. However, these groups do not provide the same amount of legal and financial protection as traditional health insurance, according to Consumer Reports.
Exclusion from the ACA mandate
One appeal of these health-sharing groups for some is that membership in Samaritan, Medi-Share or CHC will exempt you from the ACA’s mandate to buy personal health insurance. Membership in other health-sharing groups might not carry this same exemption.
But there are potential drawbacks as well. While the ACA prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, that provision doesn’t apply to health care sharing ministries, according to NPR.
Short-term coverage for transitions
As you evaluate coverage options like health-sharing ministries, Short-Term Medical (STM) insurance can fill a gap as you transition to a new type of coverage. STM allows you to customize your coverage by choosing your deductible, coinsurance and length of coverage.