If you have left a job recently and inquired about COBRA insurance, you may have been shocked by the price. Two years ago I left my job, and COBRA for our family of 5 was well over $2,000 a month! Very few families are able to afford this.
Private insurance for a family is usually less than COBRA, but it can still cost hundreds of dollars, and many families have trouble paying for it. To make matters even worse, if you are a woman who is considering having a baby, the maternity waiver usually does not take affect for at least 12 months, and you pay a high fee for this, usually one hundred dollars or more.
Of course, going without insurance is also risky.
When faced with tough choices, some families have turned to Christian-based health programs.
UPDATE 10/1/2013: With Obamacare now going live and becoming the law of the land, healthcare sharing plans may be a cost saving option to explore for many people. Plans like the one from Medi-Share are exempt from the Obamacare mandate, which means you won't have to pay the penalty for not having insurance.
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What Are Christian-Based Health Programs?
Most Christian-based health programs are not “insurance” in the typical sense of the word. Instead, they rely on their members to pay a set amount each month, and the money that comes in from each of the members is used to cover the expenses other members incurred during the month.
Why Choose a Christian-Based Health Program?
There are several advantages to choosing a Christian-based health program.
Most of these programs, including Samaritan Ministries, Christian Health Care Ministries, and Medi-Share (through Christian Care Ministry), are much more reasonably priced than private insurance. For instance, Samaritan Ministries charges $355 per month for a two-parent family. Christian Health Care Ministries offers three levels of membership, with the most expensive one costing a family of 3 or larger $450 a month and the least expensive one costing a family of three $135 a month. Medi-Share offers 6 different levels of coverage, and rates are in part based on the age of the oldest member of the family. For my family, Medi-Share could cost anywhere from $496 for the most coverage to $143 for the least coverage.
In addition to the reasonable price, these programs also provide spiritual support. It is not unusual for members who have had medical “incidents” to receive not only a check from the health program, but also cards filled with prayers and well wishes from other participating families.
The programs focus on health rather than illness. While it seems that many insurance programs are just interested in treating the sick, many Christian-based health programs offer initiatives to keep members healthy. Medi-Share offers members who meet their wellness criteria up to 20% off the monthly premiums. If you are not yet qualified for a healthy discount under Medi-Share, you can sign up for a “Restore” class that will help you learn how to improve your health.
What Participants Have to Say about the Program
I spoke with two different women whose families were enrolled in these programs.
Jennifer and her family have been enrolled in Christian Healthcare Ministries for 6 1/2 years, and Jennifer is most impressed with their maternity coverage. She states, ” With our growing family, we appreciate how simple it is to have the expenses of prenatal care and childbirth shared through the ministry. They have shared the birth expenses for our last three children and we are expecting the costs of my current pregnancy to be shared sometime soon. We especially like the ability to use our preferred birthing options such as midwives, birth centers, or home births – these are much cheaper than hospital births but are often not covered or given limited coverage with traditional insurance.”
Carrie and her family have been part of Samaritan Ministries for 9 years. For her, the perks of this type of health program are many. She states, ” If one were to compare this type of ministry with an insurance company, the ministry would win hands down to most any coverage, but there is so much more than just the financial advantages. With Samaritan Ministries there are no restrictions on what hospital or what doctor you are allowed to see, their list of procedures not covered is very reasonable, and to have your checks come in with a caring card from other real people who often remind you they are praying for your situation are all things you do not get with a ‘normal' insurance company.” Carrie also enjoys sending cards and prayers to other members who are facing health problems.
Drawbacks to This Type of Health Program
The biggest drawback to Christian-based health programs is that you have no guarantee the money will be there when you need it for your expenses. Samaritan Ministries acknowledges this and plans for it. Some months medical expenses may exceed regular shares. In that case, the amount sent to you to cover expenses may only be 85 or 90% of the cost. However, that is still similar to what you would pay with traditional insurance. On the other hand, on months when there is a surplus of money coming in, you may receive money back.
Another inconvenience may be while trying to get medical care, participants may have difficulty because they don't have “traditional” insurance. However, both women I spoke with did not mention this as a problem.
If you can't afford private insurance or you don't currently have insurance, a Christian-based health program may be just what you are looking for.
Have you tried Christian-based health programs? Would you?