I was recently emailing with a friend who is also self-employed and the thread turned to health insurance. Not in a political, ‘can you believe what is going on with healthcare!’ kind of way, but in a personal, ‘seriously, how are you guys affording healthcare this year?’
The reality is that when you’re self-employed, the health insurance options available today are terrible, and on top of that they’re crazy expensive. The other reality is that you can’t afford NOT to have health insurance. When the number one reason for personal bankruptcy is medical bills, some form of healthcare insurance is a must-have if you don’t want to end up living in your parent’s basement. To quote my buddy, he stated how “[health insurance] is our largest single bill and so I’m always wondering if there’s a hack or trick I’m missing.” While I wouldn’t consider it a trick, I can say that we’re lucky enough to not have to pay insane insurance premiums, because:
We don’t have health insurance. We have a healthcare sharing plan.
For the past few years, our family has been with Medi-Share, and we currently pay $250 per month for our family of 6 (granted, we have set a higher ‘deductible’ at $10,500), but this is a mere fraction of what we used to pay in insurance premiums!
First, what are we even talking about? Generally speaking, a healthcare sharing plan is an organization that facilitates sharing of healthcare costs among individual members who have common ethical or religious beliefs. Sound familiar? Essentially these programs act just like insurance! They’re obviously not for everyone, but for a lot of individuals and families looking for healthcare alternatives, this is the solution! Healthcare sharing plans are much cheaper than traditional health insurance.
There are several different healthcare sharing ministries out there, but there were three that we considered when doing our research: Medi-Share, Liberty Healthshare, and Samaritan Ministries. They each had different pros and cons, but in the end, Medi-Share rose to the top. We decided to go with them because we wanted something that felt familiar (it behaves like traditional health insurance) while at the same time being the most affordable option. So a few things to cover:
How our Medi-Share plan works
- Instead of paying monthly insurance premiums we pay a monthly ‘share’ amount based on my age and the number of family members covered. “…Members deposit their monthly share into their sharing account and it goes directly into a fellow member’s sharing account to pay their medical bills…”
- We also get the amazing ‘Health Incentive Discount’ which saves us about $50 a month! I really like the fact that Medi-Share encourages its members to be healthy. That keeps healthcare costs down for all of us.
- Costs are also able to be kept low because there are some restrictions when it comes to pre-existing conditions (like maternity care). You won’t be denied membership if you have a pre-existing condition, but there may be coverage limits. Please be sure to look up your specific condition if this might affect you.
- There isn’t a deductible but instead, an Annual Household Portion (AHP) where we chose to go with $10,500 to keep monthly costs down. The range of choices for AHP is $1,000-$10,500 and, of course, the higher amount you choose the lower your monthly share payment will be. But similar to insurance, that dollar amount is how much we are responsible to pay toward eligible medical bills. After that, “…ALL eligible medical bills will be submitted for sharing for the entire household.”
- Be prepared to pay for all medical expenses out of pocket until you reach your AHP! This will likely take some getting used to since it’ll feel like you’re getting nickeled and dimed every time you go in to see the doctor. It will also mean that you’ll need to have a fair amount stashed in the bank for possible medical bills each year. For us, this wasn’t new since we were used to paying high out-of-pocket costs with our high deductible plans in previous years.
- Keep in mind that Medi-Share is not technically insurance, but for us, it acts just like insurance. Taken straight from the Medi-Share site: “…Medi-Share is not insurance. Medi-Share is a healthcare sharing program where Christians share their financial resources to pay each other’s medical expenses…”
- This is how the ‘claims’ process works: “Members do not file claims, nor does the ministry handle claims because we are not an insurance company. If your eligible medical bill is paid, it is paid with funds received directly from another member. Members present their member ID card to their service provider. The service provider then discounts the bill accordingly, if within the Preferred Provider Organization network. The bill is then sent to us where we negotiate for further discounts. Here, we review the services provided to determine if the bill is eligible for sharing. After the AHP has been met and if the bill is eligible, it is eligible for sharing among the other members.”
- You can apply to join whenever you want- there is no open enrollment period! So that means if you’ve started a new traditional health insurance plan, you can join Medi-Share at any point, cancel your traditional health insurance, and then be amazed at the money you’re now saving!
There are a few big names out there in addition to Medi-Share so be sure to check them out and do your homework. And I also know that the religious/ethical basis for these organizations won’t be for everyone. But after a few years with Medi-Share we know this is the best option for our growing family. If you are not happy with the traditional health insurance options and their skyrocketing costs, you really need to check it out.
Here’s how much we’ve saved with Medi-Share
Some real numbers: back in 2017, we were going to be spending $10,224 on premiums alone for a plan that had a deductible at $7,500 on the healthcare marketplace. With Medi-Share, we only $3,984 in ‘premiums’ that year. We had a fairly healthy year of typical doctor appointments so our total out of pocket for all of those (plus any prescriptions) comes to $1,053.
So for 2017, had we been covered by the traditional health insurance plan we would’ve paid a total of $11,277 for all healthcare expenses (monthly premiums plus out of pocket medical since it was a high deductible plan). Instead we were covered by Medi-Share and paid a total of $5,037 for everything! That’s a savings of $6,240 that we didn’t have to pay to some inefficient insurance company!!!
Save a ton! – click here to check out Medi-Share!
Are we the only ones?! Who else out there has tried Medi-Share or another healthcare sharing ministry? And there are a lot of smaller details I left out so if you have any questions, comment below and I’ll get back to you with our experience!
*there are affiliate links in this article
Couple of questions come to mind:
1) This article was originally written in 2017, but I believe since then, the individual mandate penalty has been removed. Correct?
2) What about people who are non-religiously affiliated, isn’t this kind of a discriminatory program?
Cannot Wait until our government takes down the unethical [for-profit] health industry, and does what is right. $7900 in premiums last year for my incredibly healthy husband (+ myself), risk of a $12.5k deductible should something go wrong. It’s all very frightening.
Hey Erin!: 1- Yep, there are no more penalties if you do not have healthcare, however the penalties from 2018 would be paid on this years tax return. 2- I think it might be considered discriminatory if the government didn’t allow other health sharing groups to create similar plans. However since they’re private, specific health sharing companies are allowed to set their own requirements.
However I agree with you that healthcare in the US is seriously broken and I can’t see how it can continue down the path it has been for the past few decades.
I just listen to the podcast about HSAs. I had an account open with my prior employer, circa Jan 2018, but about a year ago (June 2018) switched to Medi-Share. My wife and I have recently come across some medical expenses and I attempted, successfully, to make a contribution to my original HSA account. Am I going to be penalized for using that money now? How does my HSA talk to my health plan? Seems like it is not in this case.
I requested info. I’m curious to hear more about why Medi-Share was the clear winner for you over Liberty HealthShare. I currently pay around $445 for our monthly share, and have a $1,000 out of pocket “deductible”. The quote from Medi-Share was nearly double that.
Hey Carrie! When we first switched over to health sharing, we really liked the fact that Medi-Share behaved a LOT like insurance. It seemed to be the most automated of all the options at the time, saving us the hassle for having to submit bills. Also at the time, I recall them being a little more expensive than Liberty, but not by much so the added convenience justified the small additional cost.
That being said- our monthly ‘premium’ or monthly share amount, has gone up over the past couple years, so I’ll be looking into Liberty to see if I can save our family some money! At this point, even if there are some additional steps involved with submitting bills to Liberty, I would consider them since I’m much more familiar with how health sharing works!
I have MediShare and have had this for 3 1/2 years. As a healthy, 55 year-old non-smoker, my monthly “share” is $183/month. I chose a $9,000 AHP.
If I were to have enrolled in an Obamacare plan, my premium would have been around $640/month (I do not qualify for subsidies) and I would have had a $6,500 deductible (this year, $7,300 deductible). But I would would get a “free mammogram and routine physical exam”.
With MediShare, I ALWAYS ask providers about the cash price. My mammogram in Georgia costs me $165 and my routine exam cost $350. Since I am saving about $450/month in premium, I can easily afford those things.
Most importantly, I am NOT in an HMO. I go to the doctors I want to see and I schedule visits as I see fit (no referrals needed). I had foot surgery last Fall and it cost me $9,000 – exactly as I had anticipated. My doctor ‘s office did the pre-authorization, I paid my portion, and I am now fully recovered. In my time with MediShare, I have more than paid for the cost of that surgery with my savings!