ESI Money | Medi-Share Review

Welcome to this special Saturday publication of ESI Money.

I know that many Americans are considering their healthcare choices at this time of year, so I wanted to get this out to you as soon as possible.

As I noted in an earlier post, I want to offer financial solutions that I believe could benefit my readers. This is one of them.

I know finding affordable health insurance is an issue for many. It remains the #1 question I get through email, even after I detailed how we handled our medical insurance in retirement.

While I was at Fin Con a couple months ago, I met with the people at Medi-Share. I was familiar with the company since we almost selected them. Since that time, I’ve seen quite a few of my friends select Medi-Share as their insurance solution, so I wanted to find out more about them.

The meeting went well but I was unsure whether or not to offer them as a solution since I had never worked with them. So I hired a writer, my friend, Hank, who has posted here before, to do a review. He is familiar with Medi-Share and I felt would offer better insights into the service.

Before we get to the review let me preface it with these comments:

  • I know this is not for everyone. There are faith-based elements associated with this insurance alternative that make it unsuitable for some. But I also know that it will work for thousands of people reading this post. So please forgive me if this service is not suitable for you. I’m simply publishing it as an option to consider for those who might fit the criteria and want something like this.
  • Medi-Share will be much more affordable than traditional insurance options. I detailed the numbers when we selected our insurance and Medi-Share will offer similar savings.
  • I have talked personally with several members of Medi-Share, some who are close friends, and have not heard one bad peep about the company. To the contrary, they usually get over-the-top glowing recommendations.

So with that said, let me turn it over to Hank for a review…

Health insurance is a hot topic these days especially now that open enrollment in the United States has started again. While choices for quality healthcare insurance are diminishing and costs continue to rise, more Americans are looking for ways to lessen the burden of healthcare costs. The lack of affordable options has recently made millions look at other choices such as Medi-Share to find affordable healthcare insurance.

Medi-Share is a healthcare sharing membership program in which Christians share their financial resources to help pay for other members’ medical expenses. It is based on the biblical principles of Christians helping Christians and applied to healthcare expenses.

For Christians, Medi-Share is an interesting option worth exploring in an effort to keep health insurance costs under control and manageable. Medi-Share isn’t health insurance but a potentially affordable alternative. And, its plans count to make you exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate.

Unlike health insurance, Medi-Share is a non-profit Christian based member healthcare expense sharing program. It’s a ministry that allows its members to share in the cost of each other’s healthcare needs. Each month, members pay a monthly share similar to a healthcare insurance premium into a general fund. Then, members who have medical expenses use those funds to help pay their medical bills.

It’s not health insurance. But, it is a unique replacement to health insurance coverage for many people. In fact, over 300,000 members are currently in the Medi-Share program and have shared over $2 billion dollars in medical expenses with each other.

Medi-Share “Premiums and Co-Pays”

Medi-Share is a different way to do business, and the program uses different terms for insurance words, like premiums and co-pays, that we’re all very familiar with using. While Medi-Share doesn’t use the terms premiums and co-pays, they have basically the equivalent of the two insurance payments in the program. The Annual Household Portion is the amount that a household pays upfront towards their eligible medical expenses before during the year before other members can share in the cost of their medical bills. Instead of having a set insurance deductible, each household chooses their Annual Household Portion.

There is a sliding scale and seven different levels for the Annual Household Portion ranging from as little as $500 for young singles to as much as $10,000 per year for families. After you reach your Annual Household Portion through eligible medical costs that you pay, Medi-Share then publishes the remaining amount of your eligible medical bills on the platform so other members can share in the cost.

The standard share amount is similar to a monthly insurance premium. As you can see, the higher you set your deductible, the lower your monthly share cost is in the program. The monthly share cost includes an administrative fee each month as well. Medi-Share adjusts your monthly share cost each year based on the oldest member of your household. Below is a screenshot of what my own personal Annual Household Portion and standard monthly share (monthly insurance premium) would be in the program.

Like traditional health insurance, healthier individuals and families pay a lower share amount that you see listed in the far right column of the table. Healthy monthly share is a term used by Medi-Share to describe the reduced monthly share or discount you can receive if you’re healthy. The healthy monthly share can be as much as 20% lower than the standard monthly share. Your household must meet the Health Incentive standards to qualify for the discounts. Like other insurance policies, things like waist measurement, body mass index, blood pressure, and other factors are used to determine your health and ultimately a discount on your monthly share.

Additional Costs

When you sign up for Medi-Share, there are a few one-time fees as well as an annual fee that you should be aware of before you join. Applicants pay a $50 application fee that is non-refundable when you initially sign up. And, new members also pay a $120 member fee during the first month of each year of their membership. You can start your Medi-Share plan during any month of the year, but the $120 is an annual fee that reoccurs on your anniversary month.

Medi-Share holds the plan’s monthly shares from its members in an account with the America’s Christian Credit Union. There is also a one-time fee of $2 to set up your sharing account with America’s Christian Credit Union and a reoccurring monthly fee of $3 for account maintenance by the credit union. But, you can save $1 per month of that fee by signing up for electronic statements with the credit union.

Advantages of Medi-Share

Medi-Share lets you get out of the health insurance market. By enrolling in the Medi-Share program, you meet the requirements of the mandate for individual health insurance. There is no penalty to pay due to Obamacare or opting out of having health insurance. Or, if your income level excludes you from receiving subsidized Obamacare health insurance on the marketplace exchanges, Medi-Share may be a good choice for you and your family.

The biggest advantage of Medi-Share may be the cost savings that you and your family receive versus traditional healthcare insurance. Healthcare expense cost sharing through Medi-Share is typically a much cheaper alternative to the health insurance exchanges and high-deductible health insurance plans, if you can find those plans at all.

Medi-Share is accountable. The program’s members vote on the guidelines that govern what the program covers and how it runs. The program is based on biblical principles. It’s not about charity. There are other ways to give if that’s your aim. Instead, it is simply about sharing amongst believers. Additionally, there is a sense of community, which often includes prayer for the sick and medical expenses at a time you probably need it the most.

Disadvantages of Medi-Share

There are a few disadvantages of the Medi-Share program that you need to be aware of before you sign up.

Medi-Share is not a health insurance company, and you aren’t currently able to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA) through the program. HSAs require you to have a high-deductible health insurance plan to join, which is not a part of the program. Likewise, there is no annual tax deduction for contributing to an HSA since Medi-Share doesn’t count as one.

Also, you cannot deduct your monthly share costs from your taxes. Your Medi-Share contributions are not tax-deductible. But, you can still deduct medical expenses if you itemize if you reach the proportion of your adjusted gross income.

Additionally, there are restrictions for joining the program with preexisting conditions and while already pregnant. You can receive coverage for maternity expenses, but you have to be in the program before becoming pregnant. Also, like with most health insurance plans, there are restrictions for joining the program with certain preexisting medical conditions.

The Christian Lifestyle Factor

Another large factor, both positive and potentially negative is that you have to be a Christian and live the Christian lifestyle to be a member and participate in the program. The program is based on biblical principles. While the savings through Medi-Share can greatly outweigh traditional health insurance, it won’t matter if you’re not a follower of Christ.

Medi-Share will not cover you for what they consider to be un-Christian like behavior. They won’t provide coverage for illnesses and medical expenses that stem from or relate to things like drunk driving, extramarital affairs, unwanted pregnancies, and the like. You have to agree to live your life according to Medi-Share’s principles to join. You also have to be a Christian and attend a church regularly.

So, is Medi-Share right for you and your family? Health insurance is not an easy topic to understand, and the costs are enormous. And, they seem to continue to rise every time we turn around. With Congress not inclined to change things anytime soon, it’s best to consider all of your options for health insurance and to share the cost of medical expenses.

Medi-Share is a unique program for Christians to help bear the burden of rising medical costs while also sharing in a set of values that we hold dear. There are a lot of benefits and a few drawbacks to using Medi-Share to help defray your family’s healthcare costs. Medi-Share can provide Christians a significant amount of cost savings when compared to traditional healthcare insurance. While Medi-Share requires its members to abide by Christian principles, you can be sure that you are helping others and contributing to a cause with people of like mind and spirit as you as well as your family.

[Editor’s note/update: I touched upon this in the first comment below, but wanted to add my thoughts up here as I know many people don’t read the comments.

The “rules” by the health sharing ministries are the source of much of the angst about them. Many object to the fact that these organizations decide what is and isn’t “Christian”.

I’m not going to get into that debate — that’s for each person to decide for themselves — but I do want to comment on the rules, what they result in, and why they allow for lower premiums.

First of all, here are the initial rules:

* No use of tobacco or illegal drugs
* No abuse of legal drugs
* No sex outside of traditional Christian marriage

Now let’s consider a person who follows these rules compared to someone who follows none of them (or only a couple of them). The person who follows them is likely to be much healthier than the person who does not. And you know how generally healthier people should be rewarded? They should pay lower medical insurance premiums.

In addition, you can save 20% off the general shares/premiums if you fit into certain ranges for blood pressure, waist size, and BMI. People who fall into these ranges are also generally healthier than those who don’t and thus can and should be charged less for insurance. (For instance, it’s well documented that being overweight is in and of itself causes a host of medical issues.)

Finally, if you need help getting into these categories or have a longer-term illness that needs help in being managed, Medi-Share has a “health partners” program designed to do that — to help you become healthier, get into the acceptable ranges, and end up paying less for your medical coverage.

I wanted to go through the above to make this point: the rules/qualifications for health sharing ministries virtually guarantees that they have healthier members (on average) versus the general population. I do not know it for sure but my guess would be that this is one reason their premiums are lower — because their population is less expensive to cover.

This is one reason we selected a health sharing ministry. We go to great strides to take care of ourselves and would prefer to pay rates in line with that reality, not be lumped into a program where we are paying more to help subsidize others’ poor habits.

For instance, the thought that I’d have any of my money helping support someone who smokes is something I want no part of. I HATE smoking, have seen in my extended family what it does to people, and want no part of it.

Anyway, I though this clarification might help explain both why the rules exist as well as the resulting impact on costs. Hope it helps.]

How to Get More Information

If you’re interested and would like more information, visit Medi-Share’s website.

There they have a video describing how the program works, a bit about the company’s stability and history, and testimonials from members.

Whether or not Medi-Share is for you is obviously a personal decision, but one worth considering among the various health care insurance options.

Read more at Medi-Share Review.