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If you live in America, you know how expensive health insurance can be!

The prices seem to continue to rise each year and as a result, things like Christian Healthcare Ministries are becoming a viable option instead of traditional insurance.

Today, I’m glad to let Melissa Blevins of Perfection Hangover take over the blog and shed a little light on her experience using Christian Healthcare Ministries. We’re thankfully still using my wife’s insurance that she had back when she worked in the movie industry, but come next year, we will have to start looking into the best option for our family!

This is a very thorough review, so I’ll get out of the way and let Melissa take it away:

Remember the good old days when health insurance premiums were affordable, deductibles were low, and coverage was superb? Putting all politics aside, I think we can all agree that healthcare costs are rising and health insurance premiums for most people are a joke. That’s why my family uses Christian Healthcare Ministries instead of insurance.

Out of $60,000 in medical bills this year alone, we’ve paid $1,300 out of pocket (plus $175 per month for a family of five).

At $175 per month, that means we pay $2,100 in annual premiums, which is less than many people pay for a quarter of a year.

In fact, if you compare this to what we would have paid with a high deductible health account or even a standard health plan, it’s a fraction of the total cost. With any other plan, we would have blown through the out of pocket maximum, which would have cost us thousands of dollars.

In other words, I think my family is getting solid health insurance for a fraction of what we used to pay. Read my story and review about Christian Healthcare Ministries to to see why I will never go back to traditional health insurance.

What is Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Cristian Health Ministries is the first and oldest faith-based medical cost-sharing organization. It’s a non-profit organization in which Christian members voluntarily share each other’s medical bills.

To date, members have had over $3.5 billion worth of health care services paid for by the program.

Its mission is to “glorify God, show Christian love, and experience God’s presence as Christians share each other’s medical bills.” In simple terms, it’s Christians helping Christians pay medical bills.

There are no restrictions based on age, weight, where you live, and some pre-existing conditions are even covered.

By participating in a health sharing ministry, you are exempt from Obamacare requirements. For this reason, I have saved over $10,000 per year and haven’t faced a tax penalty due to lack of health insurance.

And the best part is that membership costs haven’t increased in 11 years! That means that you are essentially paying 2008 prices for 2019 health care, which is probably a lot less than what all of your neighbors are paying.

In fact, if my family would have stayed on my husband’s job’s health insurance plan, we would have paid $9,000 in premiums annually. That’s $9,000 that would have been taken directly from his paycheck for our health insurance.

That means we are able to invest thousands of extra dollars a year with all of the money we are saving on healthcare costs.

Is CHM Too Good To Be True?

At first glance you are likely thinking that it sounds like Christian Healthcare Ministries will always be less expensive than traditional health insurance.

And for many people, it can really save them a lot of money the way it has for us. You’ll hear similar stories from a lot of current members. One other thing you’ll also notice is that many current members will say that the cost is only part of the reason they love CHM. After all, it is a ministry, so the religious aspect plays a large role.

When it comes to the cost, it’s 100% possible for traditional health insurance to be more cost effective than CHM, but it varies on a case by case basis.

For example, with a traditional health insurance plan, there is an out of pocket maximum after which point you’ll be 100% covered for all eligible expenses.

With CHM you’ll have to cover the “deductible” regardless of how much you’ve incurred throughout the year.

But don’t let this discourage you because you may still save big time, you just have to do your homework.

Current List of Health Sharing Ministries

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries
  • Samaritan Ministries
  • Liberty HealthShares
  • Trinity Healthshare (for which AlieraCare is an exclusive administrator)
  • Medi-Share
  • Altrua HealthShare

All of the above are faith-based healthcare ministries, although Trinity Healthshare is the closest option to a secular healthshare.

Keep in mind that in order to qualify for exemption from Obamacare, you had to participate in a religious health sharing organization. Otherwise, you will pay a penalty, and no one wants to do that.

I encourage you to check out each of the above providers to see if they align with your values and needs.

1. Christian Healthcare Ministries Cost?

Whether you’re a family of three with two parents and a child or a family of 15 with two parents 13 kids, your cost is the same.

You pay for one unit for each adult, so two units for two adults and one unit for all of the kids in your home.

My family pays $175 per month on a mixed-coverage plan with Cristian Health Ministries. Here’s how our plan works:

My husband and I each count as a single unit, so 2 units times $45 per month on the Bronze level of sharing equals $90/month.

Our kids are on the silver level of sharing, and all 3 kids count as a single unit together, so we pay a total of $85/month for the kids.

This adds up to $175 per month but we have different levels of coverage.

As you can see from the graphic below, 65% of members opt for the Gold program, the most costly program which covers 100% of bills for any medical incident exceeding $500 (including discounts negotiated).

2. No Open Enrollment Period Means You Can Modify Your Coverage Whenever You Want

There is no open enrollment with Christian Healthcare Ministries and other health-share ministries. This means you can sign up and make changes at any time! There are no qualifying events to worry about.

You don’t have to wait for marriage (or divorce), having babies, or any of that. You simply make the change by calling Cristian Health Ministries and it becomes effective on the first day of the following month!

With traditional insurance through your employer, you are unable to make changes to your health care coverage unless you experience a qualifying event. Christian Healthcare Ministries doesn’t impose that requirement, which means we are in complete control over our health plan.

As you’ll find with a lot of their policies and rules, they keep things a lot more simple than traditional health insurance plans. There are fewer seemingly arbitrary rules that don’t make sense.

3. Personalized Coverage Per Family Member Unit

One of the best features of Christian Healthcare Ministries is that you can mix and match levels of coverage based on your family’s needs. So when my son broke his wrist requiring two surgeries, we decided to raise the kids to the silver program while my husband and I stayed on the bronze plan.

We used to pay $135 per month for our family of five but after raising the kids to a higher level of coverage, we pay $175. It’s worth it for the peace of mind that if anything medically happens resulting in bills exceeding $1000, they’re covered.

It’s great being able to mix and match based on our family’s health needs. With kids active in sports, it’s important that we have a better level of coverage.

This is especially important if you or your spouse have a more active lifestyle or if you work in a line of work that may increase the chances of having an accident.

This is awesome, because it means you don’t need to pay for a super expensive level of coverage if you are healthy or don’t need it. It doesn’t make sense for a firefighter and a secretary to require the same level of health care coverage since clearly one person has a more risky life than the other.

When our kids are older or if they stop playing sports, we can always move down to the bronze plan again, but for now, it’s perfect for what we need. Not having to wait until an open enrollment period is also perfect for us to make changes as our lifestyles change.

4. Negotiated Discounts Count Towards Your “Deductible”

With Christian Healthcare Ministries, it’s not called a deductible, per se, that’s just the terminology we’re all used to with health insurance. I’ll explain a bit further. Depending on which level of sharing you choose, you’ll be responsible for a specific amount before Christian Healthcare Ministries sharing kicks in.

The difference here is that this ‘deductible’ or the amount you are responsible for applies to each event. So if you visit the hospital for two separate ailments, you can’t add the deductibles together. Each qualifying event is covered independently, so you’ll be responsible for the full ‘deductible’ each time.

Bronze members are responsible for the first $5,000 out-of-pocket (including discounts).

Silver members must reach $1,000 eligible medical costs before they can participate in medical sharing.

And Gold members only have to reach $500 per qualifying incident before they’re eligible for sharing.

Here’s the best part: Christian Healthcare Ministries will negotiate with medical providers on your behalf, and whatever discounts you receive, those count towards your out-of-pocket responsibility.

So you’re probably wondering why we didn’t have to pay at least $5,000 out of pocket for my son’s injury (even though we were on the Bronze plan). Our hospital offers a 70% discount for self-paying patients. Because we received such a massive discount, we didn’t have to pay any of the $5k.

We only had to pay for x-rays as radiology isn’t a covered expense on the Bronze level of sharing.

5. Less Annual Costs Mean you Can Save More for Retirement

The average annual premiums of health insurance for a family can range from $800-$1,200 per month (and even higher). For this demonstration, let’s assume you pay an average of $10,000 per year towards medical insurance premiums.

If you chose to switch to Christian Healthcare Ministries, even on the Gold plan, you’d pay $450 per month or $5,400 per year, saving you nearly 50%!

If you contributed an additional $4,600 towards a pre-tax retirement account or invested in a real estate portfolio like Diversyfund, you could make your money work for you (instead of washing it down the drain on insurance premiums).

You could also save some of that money to help cover any health expenses that you do incur. So as long as you stay healthy, after a few years you will have several thousands of dollars in saved money. And once you hit retirement, you’ll be covered by Medicare so you will still get coverage when you need it most!

Christian Healthcare Ministries Reviews

Here are several reviews from current members of Christian Healthcare Ministries. I wasn’t able to find a single negative review in my extensive research.

Christian Healthcare Ministries Maternity Coverage

Maternity claims are eligible for sharing up to $125,000 per pregnancy. Here’s how it works per plan:

Bronze Program – Hospital Delivery and Complications are included but no prenatal care, midwife, postnatal care (up to 6 weeks) and pre-existing pregnancies are not eligible.

Silver Program – Prenatal and postnatal care are not included and pre-existing pregnancies are ineligible for sharing. Hospital delivery, complications within the hospital, as well as up to $2,500 towards midwife care are able to be submitted for sharing.

Gold Program – The Gold program covers all but pre-existing pregnancies. This includes pre and post-natal care (up to 6 weeks), hospital delivery, complications, and midwife.

What’s a pre-existing pregnancy according to CHM? Bills from pregnancies before you became a member are excluded from sharing and your due date must be at least 300 days after joining Christian Healthcare Ministries.

Christian Healthcare Ministries & Dave Ramsey

If you’ve ever listened to AM radio, you’ve probably heard of a guy named Dave Ramsey.

He’s a pretty big deal in the personal finance space as he has cornered the market of teaching people how to get “gazelle intense” in order to pay off debt.

He professes his faith regularly, so it’s not surprising that he endorses Christian Healthcare Ministries (although he doesn’t personally use it).

In fact, The Dave Ramsey show is the first place I heard about CHM. You can’t listen to an entire 3-hour show without hearing at least one advertisement for the health sharing ministry.

Christian Healthcare Ministries Promo Code

CHM has transparent pricing, but what you might not know is that they offer a pretty incredible referral program. There is no promo code, but if someone signs up through your referral link or member number, you receive a credit in the amount of your membership gift amount after the new member’s third full month.

English, please… In other words, if your parents decide to join using your referral code and your family pays $450/month for the gold program, you get a free month of membership after their third month as members.

And there’s no limit to the number of people you can refer!

FAQ’s About Christian Healthcare Ministries

Is there an enrollment fee?

There are no sign-up fees or enrollment fees associated with Cristian Health Ministries. This means that more of your money goes directly into your own pocket.

Are there medical tests required?

No one is ineligible from sharing but certain pre-existing conditions aren’t eligible for sharing. The Gold program has a higher level of sharing and does include some pre-existing conditions.

Christian Healthcare Ministries also has a prayer page where members can pray for those with pre-existing conditions that might not be covered. They can also sign up for Brother’s Keeper for catastrophic illness.

What is Brother’s Keeper In The Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Brother’s Keeper is CHM’s catastrophic bills program. It’s a special add-on for additional coverage. It’s for those bills that exceed $125,000 as per the program guidelines. It protects you in case you require major procedures or expensive treatments.

One thing to note, is that in addition to the cost of the program, there is a $40 annual fee that is non-refundable.

Do I have to attend church? What if I’m not a Christian?

Cristian Health Ministries is available for Christians living by biblical principals. This includes abstaining from the use of tobacco and use of illegal drugs and following biblical teaching on the use of alcohol. You must also attend group worship services regularly as health permits.

As stated earlier, this is a faith-based ministry.

Where can I get more info or sign up?

You can sign up for Christian Healthcare Ministries plans here.

Is Christian Healthcare Ministries insurance?

Christian Healthcare Ministries is not a health insurance company. It’s a non-profit healthcare sharing ministry.

Is CHM tax deductible?

Even though Christian Healthcare Ministries is a non-profit, your expenses are not considered charitable donations from a tax standpoint. You can learn more about this here:

Bottom Line

Each person or family’s financial situation is different. While some families may have higher healthcare costs that warrant paying more for traditional health insurance, others can save thousands by considering Christian Healthcare Ministries.

It’s definitely worth doing your own research to determine if this is the right path for you.

All I know, is that we are glad we made the jump.

The post originally appeared on The Money Mix.  

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