Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, participation in healthcare sharing ministries has grown exponentially as many families and individuals faced the possibility of much higher premiums with their traditional insurance companies. While healthcare sharing ministries are not insurance, they provide a much more affordable method of paying for healthcare needs for many people who are typically healthy and want to remain lawful.

According to the Healthcare Sharing Alliance, nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are now members of healthcare sharing ministries — a staggering growth from the 160,000 users before the ACA passed. Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share program alone, for example, grew 300 percent since 2014, now boasting about 398,000 members.

Some states have explicitly provided exemptions in their insurance regulations for healthcare sharing ministries, provided the ministries meet certain criteria. These 30 “safe harbor” states do not regulate healthcare sharing ministries in the same way as insurance companies. While that allows for healthcare sharing ministries’ unique qualities, it also means members have no recourse from a state government standpoint if a healthcare sharing ministry deems a cost “unsharable,” does not pay a reimbursement or even dissolves. Even the states that do not provide an explicit exemption are not required to take action in response to those issues either. Healthcare sharing ministries are also not required to cover preexisting conditions — in fact, many explicitly state they do not — or preventive care. Members are expected to pay out-of-pocket for everything and then be reimbursed after the fact for eligible costs.

Though the risk of healthcare sharing ministries can be significant, for many families, the financial risk incurred by paying double or triple their typical insurance premium is higher. Healthcare sharing ministries have helped many Christians lower their monthly “premium” payments from more than $1200 to just $350-$500.

While a direct correlation to a mass migration to healthcare sharing ministries cannot be concluded definitively as the primary reason, registration for coverage through the government marketplace is down, suggesting the growth of these ministries has made an impact on the overall landscape. According to CMS.gov, 8.8 million people signed up for insurance via the marketplace on healthcare.gov between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15, 2017 — a decrease from 9.2 million the year before.

As policies continue to change — for instance, the slated phasing out of the individual mandate — time will tell if the pattern of growth will be maintained. Healthcare sharing ministries are not new, however. Many have been in existence for more than 20 years. Leaders of the organizations are confident they will be around for decades to come, regardless of the size of their memberships in the future.

To learn more about how healthcare sharing ministries are impacting the healthcare industry click here.

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Courtney Fry

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