Published on October 5th, 2015 | by Josiah Batten0
The Christian Health Share
The open enrollment period for Obamacare will soon be upon us, and these are turbulent times for health insurance. Contrary to what many people think, Obamacare is not government provided healthcare. Rather, Obamacare is a government mandate that individuals purchase private healthcare, and the government may help them in this through subsidies. However, if you don’t qualify for subsidies on the exchanges, and you do not have insurance through your job, you may end up paying some pretty high rates for some pretty poor health coverage.
As a result, many people have opted to simply bite the bullet and pay the “tax” in April. This tax is far cheaper than a monthly insurance premium, or at least it was. It seems to me many people don’t realize that this tax, which was relatively low the first time around, is going to get bigger and bigger. The penalty for not having insurance will increase year by year.
If you are like me, you find this whole system unjust and unconstitutional. I do not believe the government has the authority to mandate individuals purchase a private product. If you are more liberal than I am, you should still think the Affordable Care Act is a terrible piece of legislation, because all it does is force people to engage in the very capitalist for-profit system that takes advantage of the poorest members of society. It is simply the government saying “Carry this burden, and we will only lift a very small finger to help you…” (see Matthew 23:4).
In any case, whether you think Obamacare is bad policy or not, many people find they are in a difficult financial position. Many of us don’t make enough money to purchase insurance out of pocket, and the tax burden for not having Obamacare is about to be crushing ($325 per adult for 2015, rising to $695 in 2016; or it may be a percentage of income, depending on how much you make). I suspect that, if someone cannot afford a monthly insurance premium, then paying $695 out of pocket will also be a substantial burden.
There is a little-known fact about Obamacare, however. And that is what I want to tell our readers about today. Under Obamacare, members of recognized health sharing ministries are exempt from the individual mandate tax penalty. That is, if you are a member of a recognized health care sharing ministry, you do not need insurance AND you do not have to pay the tax penalty.
Many people have never heard of a health sharing ministry, and think that traditional insurance is the only option in the healthcare game. So allow me to explain. A health sharing ministry is a group of people organized around common beliefs and/or ethical commitments, who agree to help pay for each other’s healthcare costs (assuming the cost meets said ministries guidelines). Many health sharing ministries draw their inspiration from biblical passages about sharing one another’s needs (see Acts 2:44-45). That is, as Christians, we voluntarily give money to help provide and pay for a need that would otherwise be crushing or overwhelming. As an added bonus, the monthly contribution for most health shares is less (in some cases, far less) than the cost of an insurance premium.
Health shares are not insurance. There is not guarantee that your medical needs will be met. You have to rely on other people actually paying their contribution, and you also have to know what medical needs are eligible for sharing (for instance, I know of of no health sharing ministry that covers abortion, which is a good thing). All ministries I am aware of also have a minimum personal member responsibility (similar to a deductible) that must be met before needs are eligible for sharing. With those caveats in mind, I think health shares are an excellent idea. I would much rather pay money to help other people’s actual needs rather than pay an insurance premium that is going to be put into various sorts of investments and perpetuate the American insurance system that runs on greed and that drives up health care costs.
To my knowledge, there are at least five health sharing ministries eligible for exemption under Obamacare. I am going to link to four of them, leaving one out because I have serious questions about the doctrinal and ethical standards to which its members must subscribe. I ask that any reader not take these links as endorsements by myself or by WV4G. While I do think health sharing ministries are a wonderful alternative to traditional insurance, every individual needs to exercise due diligence in evaluating the doctrinal and ethical standards of each ministry listed here.
CHM is one of the larger and better-known health shares. Their cheapest program is a mere $45 per month for an individual, with their most expensive program being $150 per month. The personal responsibility amounts for their Bronze and Silver programs are fairly high. However, if you are going to pay a $695 fine, it would still be better to pay $45 per month and have some coverage than to pay the higher fine and have no coverage at all.
Medi-Share offers more options than CHM, with personal member responsibilities ranging from $500 per year (for people under age 29) to $10,000 per year. Obviously the higher your personal responsibility, the lower the monthly cost will be. Interestingly, if you are a generally healthy individual, Medi-Share offers a discount. According to their cost calculator, the lowest rate I could get would be $54 per month, and the highest rate would be $193 per month.
Altrua Health Share is one of the only health shares to have a program that covers routine office visits. Their rates vary greatly based on age, with someone in my age range being able to get coverage for $100 per month for their cheapest program, up to $175 per month for their most expensive program. For someone age 60-64, those rates range from $250 to $315.
Samaritan Ministries is a very large health share, and has straightforward monthly contribution requirements. Unlike other programs which have different options with different levels of coverage, Samaritan asks for a monthly contribution of $180 from individuals ($140 if you are age 25 or younger) and everyone has the same coverage. Also unlike other programs, members of Samaritan send their monthly contributions directly to one another to pay for published needs.
There you have it, four health share ministries that qualify you for an exemption to the penalty under Obamacare. If you enroll in such a ministry, you will know that your monthly payments are going to provide for actual needs. This is nothing more than Christian generosity at its best.
Soli Deo Gloria,