It’s open enrollment period and a lot of people are analyzing their current medical insurance policies and shopping around in hopes of finding something better. Medical insurance premiums are on the rise for 2016 and tend to increase steadily each year.
It’s safe to say that while the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, did help medical insurance plans become accessible to everyone, that doesn’t mean that everyone can afford the plans that are offered. Since it’s now required by law to have medical insurance, this puts the people who can’t afford the premiums in an uncomfortable spot.
A Unique Alternative
For single moms, obtaining medical insurance is especially important. For starters, being the head of household and the sole income provider, you need to make sure you’re in good health and properly insured since there is no back up income if you had to take a break from working due to a medical issue.
Kids also need check-ups and routine immunizations so it’s crucial to have a coverage plan for them at all times no matter what.
If your employer doesn’t offer any type of medical benefits, you can try applying for government assistance like Medicaid if your income is low enough. If you truly can’t afford medical insurance, your child should be approved for Medicaid at minimum. But what will you do for yourself?
You can try your luck at the marketplace. The government does offer tax credits and discounts depending on your income. My income was less than $40,000 this year and I was only offered a tax credit of $23, leaving me with $200+ still left to pay as a part of my monthly premium just for my own coverage.
If you don’t qualify for government assistance, your employer doesn’t offer any benefits, and the marketplace insurance premiums are too high, you might feel like you’re out of options.
A unique alternative to expensive medical insurance that you can try would be to sign up for a membership with a health sharing ministry.
1. Health sharing ministries are faith-based programs that are community driven and involve everyone gathering up their resources and throwing it into one big pot (in a sense) to help each member when in need.
2. They are not traditional insurance, but they are often compared to insurance policies because they help cover your medical expenses in a way.
3. When you sign up with a health sharing ministry, it will waive your requirement to sign up with a traditional medical insurance policy through the marketplace. Therefore, you can opt out of Obamacare and still not face any penalties come tax time.
4. When you sign up with a health sharing ministry, there is no ‘network’ per se so you can seek out medical care from any provider of your choice.
5. Since health sharing ministries are not considered traditional insurance, you can not deduct the premiums/ monthly membership fees you pay on your taxes at the end of the year and you won’t qualify to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
How it Works
Health sharing ministries work a lot like traditional insurance in some ways being that you will be required to make a predetermined monthly payment or premium in order to remain enrolled. You can enroll your spouse and/or kids by using a family or couple’s plan if you need coverage for additional people.
There is typically an amount of money for medical expenses that will be unshared which can be compared to a deductible that you will be responsible for paying before most of your medical expenses can be shared among other members up to a certain amount.
Basically, you’ll receive a membership card when you sign up and present it to your care provider. You’ll be notified when your provider bills the health sharing ministry who will then analyze the charges and determine how much will be shared or covered.
The term ‘shared’ or ‘sharing’ refers to other members whose monthly payments will go toward your expenses when you have them. When someone else in the community has medical expenses, your monthly payment toward the health sharing ministry will be shared with them to help cover their expenses.
Some Top Contenders
Health sharing ministries are legal and legitimate so you won’t have to worry about signing up and paying money that will never be accounted for again. Here are some of the top and most popular health sharing ministries that you can look into for medical coverage.
Liberty HealthShare: I’ve been with Liberty HealthShare since February and I’m planning on continuing my membership with them in 2016. They offer three main plans and I have the middle plan where I pay $131 per month for coverage/sharing up to $125,000 per medical incident. There is another plan available that caps your coverage off at $1 million per medical incident. My annual unshared amount or deductible is only $500. You can check out my full review here.
I don’t have any personal experience with the following health sharing ministries, but there is plenty of information and reviews online about the following top contenders:
Christian Healthcare Ministries
Health sharing ministries are certainly not the end-all-be-all solution when it comes to working your way around high health care premiums, but they are definitely worth exploring if you are running out of options during the enrollment period.
Do your research and ask a professional or give one of these companies listed a call if you want to learn more or have specific questions and you’ll surely find the best option for you.
Have you ever heard of health sharing ministries before? What do you think will happen with traditional health care premiums in the month/years to come?
Disclosure: I am not a healthcare or medical insurance professional and this is not a health care site. Any views or opinions expressed in this post are solely my own. If you have specific questions or concerns about health care coverage or health sharing ministries, please contact a health professional.