Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs) are appealing to many individuals and families. As an alternative to traditional health insurance, HCSMs offer members a community of individuals and families who can share the cost of health care and medical expenses. Before you decide if an HCSM is right for your family, it’s important to understand what they are, how they work, and their potential features. Here are some things to know about these ministries.
1. HCSMs Are Not Health Insurance
Health Care Sharing Ministries are not health insurance companies. Instead, members of HCSMs voluntarily share in the medical needs of other members, who have similar beliefs and values. This means that while they may help with some of your medical bills, HCSMs don’t guarantee that the needs will be shared. In addition, HCSMs are not regulated by state and federal laws that govern health insurance.
2. Age Requirements May Vary
It’s important to check age requirements before signing up for an HCSM because each one has its own rules. For example, some HCSMs may not accept members over the age of 24 or 65. Others may have different requirements based on your household size, income level, and other factors.
3. Pre-Existing Conditions Generally Aren’t Eligible
Most Health Care Sharing Ministries do not offer eligibility for pre-existing conditions for 12 months from enrollment. So, if you have a medical condition before joining the HCSM, you will need additional coverage elsewhere or be prepared to pay for those needs. While some HCSMs may provide partial eligibility for existing conditions, it’s important to understand what is and isn’t eligible before signing up.
4. Eligibility Can be limited
Health Care Sharing Ministries may not offer eligibility for some medical needs that are typically covered by health insurance, such as prescription drugs and preventive care like vaccines and check-ups. Review the HCSM’s guidelines to understand eligibility limitations. In addition, HCSMs may not provide eligibility for costly medical procedures.
5. Financial Contributions
Most Health Care Sharing Ministries require each member to make monthly financial contributions to go toward the shared costs of medical needs. These contributions may range based on age and family size. It’s important to understand your HCSM’s financial contribution requirements before signing up.
6. HCSMs May Not Be Available Everywhere
Health Care Sharing Ministries may not be available in all states, so it’s important to check if an HCSM is available where you live before signing up. In addition, some HCSMs may not offer eligibility outside the United States. If you need eligibility outside the country, check if your HCSM provides international coverage before you travel.
7. Most People Still Rely on Traditional Health Insurance
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88.6% of people have a usual place to go for medical care, most often traditional health insurance. While traditional health insurance is most common, HCSMs can be an attractive alternative for some individuals and families, so it’s important to consider all your options before deciding on your health care needs.
8. Assess Your Needs Before Choosing a Ministry
Carefully assess your needs and budget before signing up. Compare different ministries to understand the differences in eligibility, financial contributions, age requirements, and other important factors. In addition, research each ministry’s reputation and track record of sharing of medical needs to determine the right choice for you and your family.
9. All Ministries Aren’t the Same
When considering a Health Care Sharing Ministry, it’s important to understand the differences between each one. Some HCSMs are more lenient with eligibility and financial contributions, while others have stricter requirements. Research the different ministries to find one that best meets your individual needs.
10. Dental and Vision May Not Be Eligible
Most Health Care Sharing Ministries do not offer dental and vision features. If you need eligibility for dental or vision, check your HCSM’s options before signing up. In some cases, you may need to purchase a separate dental and vision insurance plan.
Health Care Sharing Ministries can be an attractive option for some families looking for a cost-effective way to manage healthcare costs. However, you should understand how they work and their potential features and qualifications before signing up. With the right information and research, you can make an informed decision about the best option for your family. Contact our team at JHS Community today for more information.