Are Health Sharing Ministries Really Health Insurance?

November 9, 2015

There is a health insurance alternative available that wasn’t getting much attention in the media prior to the implementation of healthcare reform. But now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or better known as Obamacare, has become a law the land, health sharing ministries are rising as viable alternatives to the health insurance exchanges.

What a health sharing ministry is

A health sharing ministry is exactly what the term implies. It’s a group of people, bonded by faith, who participate in a ministry that provides funding for the health care needs of everyone in the group. In theory at least, this is exactly what health insurance is, but that definition is not applied to health sharing ministries in the strict sense – or the legal one.

The reason for their increased popularity – in addition to the fact that the enable someone to get some form of health care coverage other than the exchanges – is that the ministries provide a specific exemption to the penalty that people will have to pay if they do not have health insurance coverage. Health sharing ministries enable people to get a form of health care coverage that is generally significantly less expensive than what is available through traditional health insurance providers.

A health sharing ministry isn’t true health insurance

A health sharing ministry will not necessarily cover all medical expenses. For example, some of the exclusions include:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Ongoing prescription therapies
  • Medical treatment arising from use of alcohol or other immoral acts
  • Medical treatment following attempted suicide
  • Behavioral conditions
  • Childbirth occurring outside a marriage

There are also dollar limits on the amount of coverage that would be provided for many individual conditions or injuries. Unlike traditional health insurance, health sharing ministries are not a bottomless pit of coverage. Limits are imposed due to the fact that the amount of coverage available cannot exceed the amount of money available in the sharing ministry’s fund.

But because of the exclusions, and the fact that health sharing ministries are not-for-profit entities, the cost of coverage is substantially below what it is for traditional health insurance. Monthly contributions are typically significantly less than half of what they are for traditional health insurance policies, and different deductible levels are available.

Health sharing ministries aren’t for the general public

In order to participate in a health showing ministry, you have to meet certain criteria that are consistent with the ministry’s core beliefs.

Using Medi-Share as an example, here are the requirements to participate in the ministry:

  • Have a verifiable Christian testimony indicating a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and profess the Statement of Faith
  • Attend a fellowship of believers, regularly and actively support that ministry, and live under the discipline of that body Share the conviction that believers are to bear one another’s burdens according to Galatians 6:2
  • Believe the biblical doctrine that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and therefore are to be kept pure
  • Must not engage in sex outside of traditional Christian marriage
  • Cannot use tobacco or illegal drugs in any form, or abuse legal drugs or alcohol
  • Be a U.S citizen (those serving abroad as missionaries may qualify) or a permanent resident with a visa or green card and Social Security number who lives full time in the United States

Though many will find such requirements to be offensive, it has to be remembered that health sharing ministries are faith-based organizations that will not accommodate the general public or the commonly accepted parameters of the secular world. Not only is adherence to faith positions a requirement, but is also believed that living according to biblical standards will lower the cost of healthcare for all members in the group.

If you are a believing Christian, and living a biblically-based lifestyle, health sharing ministries are an option.

Obamacare has increased the significance of health sharing ministries

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made health sharing ministries a more viable option. Since the implementation of ACA, the cost of health insurance has only increased, due largely to mandated coverage and procedures. The use of the word affordable in connection with the law is a cruel hoax, since so many people are paying so much more.

Health sharing ministries offer what is, on balance, reduced coverage, but they do so with much more affordable monthly rates. For a Bible-believing Christian, membership in a health sharing ministry could be the difference between having some kind of healthcare coverage, and not having any at all and being forced to pay the penalty for going without health insurance.

They could still become the future of health insurance in America

In some quarters it’s believed that health sharing ministries could be the ultimate solution – or at least an option – to the current traditional health insurance system. Some experts see health sharing ministries becoming the model of workable health car coverage for the general public.

It remains to be seen if the basic concept of health sharing ministries will eventually be adopted in a more secular form, or even if the public is willing to forgo unlimited coverage in favor of more affordable premiums.  But it does represent an option in a health care system in which there seem to be fewer options all the time.


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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