There are no Christian health insurance companies to speak of in the United States. However, there are Christian healthcare sharing organizations which provide a service similar to standard health insurance. This is not a free health insurance option by any means, although the service works by collecting voluntary contributions from all members and using that money to pay submitted medical bills that meet their program criteria.
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It’s important to note that these Christian healthcare sharing organizations do not provide legal insurance contracts like the ones you get from companies like Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and so forth. They are simply groups of people agreeing to come together to share medical expenses. Because these organizations are typically classified as religious ministries, they are also able to set very strict criteria regarding who they will accept into the plan. There are currently at least five such organizations in the U.S. meeting the healthcare needs of their members in this way.
How do these plans actually work?
A Christian healthcare sharing plan is one based on individual faith and the scriptural mandate that Christians should take care of one another’s financial needs. They do so through one of two primary models.
The first model dictates that members will send in a monthly contribution based on the number of participants in a family and the amount of coverage they need. When it’s time for them to access medical services they submit their qualifying bills directly to the plan which then pays them according to predetermined rules. The other type of plan also includes monthly contributions, but usually at a lower amount. What the plan cannot afford to cover would be offered to various members who then contribute additional money towards the cost of a specific bill.
This second model allows for more direct interaction between members in supporting one another. Often times it results in members offering encouragement and prayer support along with the financial assistance proffered by the plan. In either case, Christian Post Magazine points out that these plans are dependent on the goodwill and generosity of individual member families.
What do Christian healthcare plans pay for?
As a general rule, Christian healthcare sharing organizations don’t pay for routine care and doctor visits. Most of them require at least a minimum $500 payment per incident, meaning that routine health care costs would be paid directly by the member. The point of these organizations is to help offset the cost of major medical procedures including surgeries, treatments for chronic illnesses, expensive tests, and maternity care, rather than helping to pay for routine care.
Keep in mind that since these organizations are not insurance companies, there is no guarantee that any or all of your medical bills will be paid. There’s also no way to force payment or file a complaint with your state insurance department.
Do Christian healthcare sharing organizations restrict membership?
Being private Christian organizations they can and do restrict membership. Though qualifications may vary slightly from one organization to the next, they typically require members to certify they are born-again Christians. These organizations require that you not use illicit drugs, do not engage in sexual practices outside of biblically authorized marriage, and do not abuse alcohol. While these policies may seem restrictive, they actually help keep the cost of health care down because their members have fewer medical bills associated with certain behaviors.
Can I avoid federally mandated health insurance in the future by enrolling in one of these organizations?
It is no secret that many Christians object to the federal healthcare legislation passed a couple of years ago. Their objections are based on their religious convictions that social welfare is the responsibility of the church rather than the federal government. However, the government does not want its citizens to have no health insurance.
Fortunately, the federal mandate provides an exception for those belonging to faith-based sharing organizations. According to the Pew Center on the States a handful of state legislatures are also working on their own legislation to remove any barriers to share organizations that might exist at the state level.
As long as your state does not have any regulations in place prohibiting it, it appears as though you will be eligible to avoid the federal penalty for not having a health insurance plan by joining a Christian healthcare sharing organization. However, it’s important that you realize exactly what it is you’re getting into when joining such a group.
Furthermore, as a born-again Christian you also need to understand the biblical mandate against taking other Christians to court. If you have a dispute with your sharing organization you will have to work it out through the channels set up by that organization.
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