Getting Started

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Before we start…

You should know what a Health Care Sharing Ministry (HCSM) is.

A HCSM is NOT health insurance, but in many ways operates similarly. It is an eligible option under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). These sharing ministries comprise about to 1 million participants. They began over 20 years ago as a way to counteract with the rising health insurance costs in America. Instead of paying “premiums” for traditional health insurance coverage, members of these ministries share in paying the cost of all members’ eligible medical expenses by contributing a fixed monthly “share amount” or “membership fee.” These monthly amounts are held in an escrow account until the funds are sent to doctors or hospitals to cover other members’ medical expenses.

Key Differences

Some expenses aren’t covered. Some HCSM exclude procedures that are perceived as controversial or against a ministry’s beliefs will not be part of the plan, and pre-existing conditions may be excluded and/or limited. It’s always wise to look at any exclusions on the plan before joining a HCSM. There are a few to choose from and they are all slightly different, so there’s a good chance there is one that will meet your needs.

Prescription Drugs May Not be Covered. The plans have various levels of participation, but most do not include prescription drugs. Some do, however, have prescription discount programs. Many find that once the cost for their prescription(s) are figured in with their monthly membership costs, they still see an overall savings compared to traditional health insurance. But, if you take particularly expensive prescriptions, this may not be the way to go.

Advantages

  • Just like traditional health insurance, these plans really do protect their members from excessive medical costs.
  • Membership is usually far less than health insurance premium costs.
  • Members are exempt from any ACA-related penalties or taxes.
  • There is no open enrollment period, so you can sign up even if you missed open enrollment for Covered California.

Learn the Lingo

Because these programs are not insurance, the terminology they use have to differ from the verbiage that traditional insurance uses. You’ll notice pretty quickly that even though the words are different, they are pretty much the same as general health insurance concepts.

HCSM TermComparable Insurance Term
Sharing GuidelineBenefit
Medical ExpenseClaim
Consult FeeCopay
Member Shared Responsibility Amount (MSRA)Deductible
MembershipPolicy/Plan
Membership FeePremium

The Most Frequently Asked Question

Is a health share membership tax deductible?

Afraid not. However, with a lot of them you can decide to make an additional donation. If you do, that donation amount is tax deductible.