There are lots of ways to cover medical expenses. Traditional employer-funded insurance is a partnership between the company and its employees who both pay into coverage. You can also simply pay out of pocket or start an untaxed health savings account to save for rainy days.
But these aren’t the only options anymore. For some families, healthcare sharing programs minimize red tape and paperwork. They pool resources and disburse them as needed amongst their like-minded members. Christian Healthcare Ministries is one such plan.
In a nutshell, healthcare sharing programs “are faith-based programs (of varying degrees with options for different religious denominations) which facilitate voluntary sharing among members for eligible medical expenses. Specifically, members send in monthly ‘shares’ (i.e., premiums) which are distributed to or on behalf of other members with medical expenses (i.e., benefits payments) in accordance with program guidelines. They are built upon the principle of people with similar beliefs and values coming together to share each other’s burdens, not unlike the risk-pooling nature of health insurance.”
Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) explains that they are “an affordable, biblical, and compassionate healthcare cost solution for Christians in all 50 states and around the world. We’re not health insurance; rather, we’re the first and longest-serving health cost-sharing ministry, having shared more than $3.5 billion in our members’ medical bills.”
Like traditional insurance, CHM coverage comes in tiers of service and cost. Some are more inclusive while others are for more catastrophic bills. Their guidelines explain that members must abstain from tobacco use, attend worship services, and drink only in moderation.
For one family, CHM has been an ideal solution. These busy local nursery owners initially heard about the program from friends and medical professionals. “The monthly buy-in is so inexpensive, and there is no political ‘go around’ for any of our medical needs,” they explain. “We are self-employed and this just makes the most sense for us. Furthermore, the encouragement from other members has been so wonderful, it’s truly a little community.”
Unlike some policies, preexisting conditions are not covered. But the community nature of CHM’s program meant that “If you do have a preexisting condition, they have a ‘needs page’ that is beautifully distributed and sent to all members monthly in which members can ask for financial help from other members for medical costs that have arisen from pre-existing conditions.” On reading the ‘needs page,’ members can reply with financial contributions or words of support for those needing a little extra assistance.
Where larger companies deal with bills before sending the balance owed on to their subscriber, with CHM, patients pay up front then submit paperwork for reimbursement. Members are encouraged to have a health savings account since refunding the money can take up to 180 days…though it seldom takes that long.
CHM also asks clients to cover the cost of small tests and routine care which keeps costs low across the board. Families are also instructed to ask providers for their cash pay discount and “be good stewards of your money and not nickel and dime the other members in the cost-share program.”
To date, this family pays $150 each month per person and maintains a low $500 deductible. They also contribute a little extra into the Brothers Keeper fund which covers catastrophic medical bills exceeding $125,000 per illness. Even with a recent cancer diagnosis, 100% of submitted bills have been fully reimbursed by the organization.
Longview’s Pacific Surgical Center (PSC) welcomes alternative plans like CHM. This outpatient surgical center features clearly posted transparency pricing with no post-surgical sticker shock. They work with individuals from across the west coast and Canada to address orthopedic, urology, gastroenterology, and general surgery needs. With procedures done on an outpatient basis, costs are low and much of the lab work and imaging is done on-site. This minimizes return visits so you can get back to on your feet ASAP.
No-one can predict illness or injury. But you also don’t have to go it alone. Let PSC work with you, your primary care doctors, and your insurance company to come up with the best—most affordable—treatment available. Their skilled physicians and financial counselors are always ready to help.
Healthcare sharing ministries like CHM have been around for decades. To read more about their mission or join the program, visit their website. And if you or a loved one needs outpatient surgical care, give PSC a call at 360-442-7900. Insured or cash-pay, they’ll strive to find the answers you need at the lowest possible price.