I came across this article on the Internet and thought it would be worth sharing.
Health Care Ministries…who knew? Sure looks like an interesting alternative to Obomacare.
Health care ministries have been around since the 1990s, but they have grown by leaps and bounds since Obamacare passed and especially since the disastrous launch of the exchanges last fall. According to FoxNews.com, “Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, membership at each of the ministries has exploded, with nearly 30,000 new enrollees — more than the number of people who selected a plan through Obamacare in 24 states.”
Health care ministries are not insurance in the sense that there is no contractual obligation to cover any service. As described by CatholicVote.org, “It’s a program in which members make a monthly monetary donation which is matched with the needs of other members who face medical bills, thus covering each others’ medical costs through a program of mutual, voluntary giving.” Yet, the article notes:
The programs are structured in such a way that it’s not just a “give what you want, when you can” situation. There are coverage levels. There are tiers. If you pay so much a month, your annual out-of-pocket expenses will be adjusted accordingly. It looks and feels a lot like insurance, and based on the satisfied testimonials of many who have participated over the years, it operates in a similar, if more personal way.
Two out of the four health-care ministries eligible for the coverage exemption — Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries — have A-plus ratings from the Better Business Bureau. And Medi-Share utilizes the MutiPlan PHCS network, the same large physician providers network that many insurance companies use. So even if Medi-Share’s members pay for medical services out-of-pocket, they often get the same in-network discounts that insurance policyholders do.
A January Religion News Service article found that monthly dues for Medi-Share for a family of four were almost $300 cheaper than the monthly premiums for a similar Obamacare insurance plan, though the Obamacare plan might be slightly cheaper if the family were eligible for all the subsidies offered (a big if!).
Health care sharing ministries are similar to the voluntary mutual aid societies that supported many social welfare institutions in early 20th century America among nearly every demographic community. Mutual aid societies, including the Masons and the Odd Fellows, collected dues from each member and assisted members in need with covering the costs of necessities like medical care and funerals.
In fact, as historian David Beito has documented, mutual aid societies were the primary source of health care coverage in many communities before the New Deal of the 1930s. “Mutual aid was a creature of necessity,” Beito writes in a Heritage Foundation paper, but “a reinvigoration of mutual aid … is not out of the question in the 21st century.”
And now the Obamacare mandates on individuals, employers, and insurance firms, have left the descendants of mutual aid societies as the only entities left with pre-Obamacare freedoms. Ironically, a health-care ministry has more freedom to price for risk and to exclude coverage of certain items — whether for religious objections or budgetary reasons — than an insurance company. These savings can be passed on to members.
Though it is a miracle that the health care ministry exemption exits at all in Obamacare, it is still unduly narrow. The exemption, for whatever reason, does not apply to any ministry created after December 31, 1999. So only four organizations meet the criteria.
These four groups are Christian, but vary in membership requirements. According to Delaware’s The News Journal, “three of the four require members to share their Christian faith, attend church regularly, submit a letter of reference from their pastor and live by standards they say are mapped out in the Bible.”
But the paper notes that one — Liberty HealthShare — “has a broader umbrella, inviting all who can embrace its members’ “shared beliefs” in God as the source of all rights and liberties, freedom to worship ‘the God of the Bible’ in his or her own way, the obligation to assist others, the duty to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the right to direct one’s own health care free of government dictates.” The Liberty HealthShare communications director told The News Journal that his ministry accepts Jews, Muslims, and same-sex couples as members.
Congress should expand this mutual aid “ministry” option to groups of all faiths and no faith, in addition to liberalizing all mandates that impede quality, affordable health care. In the meantime, there may be a whole bunch of Obamacare victims suddenly getting religion!
The four health-care sharing ministries are:
Christian Healthcare Ministries, www.chministries.org
Liberty HealthShare, www.libertyhealthshare.org
Samaritan Ministries, www.samaritanministries.org