Christian Healthcare Ministries is a healthcare sharing ministry (aka healthshare plan) in which members can share medical costs while staying faithful to Christian beliefs and biblical principles.
Although companies such as CHM have been around for decades, these companies are less-known because traditional health insurance is standard in the United States.
Christian Healthcare Ministries is an affordable alternative to traditional health insurance. Medical bills are submitted to the group and paid out of monthly contributions to the pool. And as you may have guessed from the name, you must be Christian to qualify.
I recently had my first healthcare sharing experience as a member of CHM, and out of a total of nearly $40,000 in medical bills, my responsibility was only $1,299. I’m a believer in this ministry, so I am happy to share with you how Christian Healthcare Ministries can save you money on healthcare.
Table of Contents
Christian Healthcare Ministries Requirements
From the title, you probably guessed that CHM is a faith-based ministry. To be eligible to join, you must be actively living by biblical principles. You must abstain from using tobacco and from the use of illegal drugs and substances.
You must live according to the biblical teaching of the use of alcohol. In other words, if you’re drinking to get drunk, you don’t meet Christian Healthcare Ministries requirements. Members also agree to attend regular group worship, health permitting.
There are no restrictions based on age, weight, where you live, or your health history.
Unmarried adult children (up to age 26) may participate on your family’s ministry plan as long as they are single, living according to biblical principles, and are still being reported as dependents on their parent’s income tax return.
But there’s no need to worry. If your children outgrow your family plan, they can always sign up for their own membership account (provided they meet the requirements of adult members.)
Christian Healthcare Ministries Cost
Christian Healthcare Ministries utilizes units instead of traditional monthly premiums (as you’d find in traditional health insurance.) Each adult in the household counts as a single unit, and all dependent children count as one unit combined. So the maximum number of units a household is three units.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- A single mom, Dana, is raising her three kids solo. She counts as one unit, and all three children count as one unit, so she would purchase two units.
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith have no kids. They purchase two units.
- Mr. Jones is offered traditional healthcare coverage for himself at no cost from his employer. He wishes to exclude himself from membership with Christian Healthcare Ministries and purchases coverage for his wife and two children. Since he is excluded, they pay for two units.
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith have decided to adopt a baby boy. He is six months old, and they receive legal custody. He is eligible to add to their plan, so they raise their units to three. If anyone else is responsible for their baby boy’s medical costs, CHM expects those resources to be exhausted before utilizing sharing in the ministry. This is a grey area, so if you have a specific question, it’s best to reach out to CHM directly.
Now that you understand units, you’ll want to compare the three different types of sharing available.
Gold Program-$205 Per Unit Per Month
The gold program is the highest level of sharing available to members and accounts for 61% of memberships. Under this plan, CHM shares 100% of medical bills per eligible incident after a $500 personal responsibility has been met.
Side note: That $500 out of your pocket can come in the form of discounts you (or CHM) negotiated. Frequently, hospitals and medical providers will offer discounts to cash patients (which is how you’re coded as a member of CHM.)
Brother’s Keeper for Catastrophic Illness
As a member of the gold plan, you’re eligible for sharing up to $125,000. There is a supplemental program available called Brother’s Keeper that you can pay an additional fee each month to receive unlimited financial assistance. The cost of Brother’s Keeper varies based on the number of members sharing in a quarter, but it’s very inexpensive.
Silver Program-$125 Per Unit Per Month
The silver program accounts for just 15% of memberships. The silver level requires a personal responsibility amount of $2,500 per eligible incident. I think most people find that if they want to upgrade from the bronze plan that they really desire a more comprehensive coverage which the gold plan offers.
Members of the silver plan are also eligible for sharing up to $125,000. Of course, Brother’s Keeper is also available with the silver program.
Bronze Program-$85 Per Unit Per Month
Under the bronze program, your personal responsibility amount is $5,000 (or $5,000 in discounts from medical providers) before eligible for sharing. 24% of CHM members sign up at the bronze level of sharing.
This is the plan my family signed up for, simply as a way to save hundreds every month while we pay off our debt. My family has three units, and we pay a total of $255 per month. We are (generally) a very healthy family (or so we thought).
My son broke his wrist playing football, and the bills came in at a whopping $40,000 after surgery. We were only responsible for $1,299 out of all the bills.
The silver and bronze plans are mostly for hospitalization coverage and major incidents, such as surgeries, accidents, etc.
One of the best features of Christian Healthcare Ministries is that you can mix and match different programs based on your family’s unique healthcare needs.
For example, if your kids are actively involved in sports, such as football and hockey, you can sign the kids’ unit up on the Gold program and keep you and your spouse on the Bronze or Silver. You might want to consider the cost of broken bones. I wish I’d have thought of this, although we still fared pretty well. In the future, our kids will be on the Gold plan (just in case my linebacker decides to break another bone).
Other similar health share programs are Medi-Share and Liberty HealthShare. Check out our comparison of these two companies here.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Prescription Coverage
Does CHM cover prescriptions? The answer is, it depends on which program you choose. The Gold Program level offers prescription coverage for incident-related expenses after your $500 personal responsibility has been met.
What does this mean for regular maintenance medications, such as blood pressure medicine? They’re not eligible for sharing.
So how can you save money on prescriptions since the majority of medications aren’t covered?
The GoodRX card is a prescription discount card that my family uses to save hundreds on prescriptions every year. It’s free for anyone to use (even if you have health insurance).
My mother-in-law called me a few months ago upset that one of her maintenance meds was over $200 with Blue Cross Blue Shield for a three month supply.
Just for the fun of it, I ran the prescription through the free GoodRX app, and it was available for only $30 for a three month supply, saving her $170!
Dave Ramsey and Christian Healthcare Ministries
If you’ve ever listened to The Dave Ramsey Show, you’ve likely heard an advertisement for Christian Healthcare Ministries. Although he’s not a member of CHM himself, Dave Ramsey endorses this healthcare sharing ministry as an alternative to health insurance.
Let me be clear. He doesn’t think all health insurance is bad. Some employers are still offering affordable health insurance. He provides health insurance at his company, Ramsey Solutions. The sole proprietors and smaller companies are the ones struggling to find affordable coverage, and to those people, Dave recommends Christian Healthcare Ministries.
Since Obamacare was enacted, health insurance rates have risen for the majority of Americans. The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (also known as Tax Reform) which eliminated fines for those without healthcare coverage doesn’t affect CHM members.
Christian Healthcare Ministries members have never been subject to fines for lack of health coverage support.
On his show, Ramsey always says to be aware of the fine print when selecting coverage. You need to compare apples to apples if you’re going to get a true representation of coverage.
I gave up traditional health insurance for a Health Share Ministry. Here’s a review of Christian Healthcare Ministries.Click to tweet
How Christian Healthcare Ministries Handles Pre-Existing Conditions
A pre-existing condition is a medical condition, like asthma, diabetes, or cancer, that you experienced signs or symptoms for before joining Christian Healthcare Ministries, even if you haven’t been diagnosed yet. Are you receiving active treatment for a pre-existing condition? Is so, CHM will not share medical costs except for routine maintenance medications.
After the incident is over (cancer, as an example), bills submitted for any new, related incidents may be eligible for sharing based on this schedule from CHM’s website:
- In the first year of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $15,000.
- Also in the first two years of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $25,000 ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year).
- In the first three years of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $50,000 ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year plus $25,000 during the third year).
- After the third year of participation, the condition is no longer considered pre-existing.
What is the Christian Healthcare Ministries Prayer Page?
Every month, CHM sends out a magazine called Heartfelt to all members, listing those with extreme medical needs. Members can give as they feel called to help others with medical costs that have exceeded their coverage limits. Members’ names, mailing addresses, and specific prayer needs are listed on the page. These members receive prayers, cards, and money to help cover those medical burdens. It truly is a ministry of love.
Side note: Prayer page contributions are tax-deductible, but regular monthly contributions are not. Now, I’m not a tax advisor. But if you think about the amount of savings over a year (in premiums alone), I think you can see that the true savings per month are probably higher even without the tax break.
How Christian Healthcare Ministries Deal With Maternity
Women who join Christian Healthcare Ministries after they’ve conceived are not eligible for sharing or prayer page contributions from the ministry. Also, since CHM is a faith-based ministry, women who get pregnant out of wedlock would not be eligible.
The due date for pregnancies is calculated as 280 days from the date of last menstrual period. Members must have a due date at least 300 days after joining CHM to qualify for sharing within the ministry.
As far as maternity coverage goes, the Gold program offers an excellent option for sharing. Pre-natal care, delivery, post-natal care, midwife services, post-natal up to six weeks after the baby is born, and complications are all covered with a $500 personal responsibility amount. But remember you’ll probably get at least $500 in discounts, so Christian Healthcare Ministries covers 100% of maternity under the gold plan.
The silver plan offers hospital delivery, midwife services (up to $2,500), and complications in the hospital only. No pre-natal or post-natal treatment available, and your personal responsibility amount is $1,000.
The bronze plan offers very little maternity coverage, including hospital delivery and complications only.
I feel an extra $115 per month from the Bronze program to the Gold Program is worth it to obtain great maternity coverage. Just be sure to count your days correctly if you’re trying to conceive and want to switch to Christian Healthcare Ministries.
How Christian Healthcare Ministries Deals With Dental, Vision, Hearing, and Chiropractic Care
CHM does not cover any of these services listed above. Bills for the repair of broken teeth are the one possible exception.
CHM recognizes that these services are credible fields of medicine. But they feel that their costs are relatively small compared to other medical events. So CHM considers these types of expenses “load events,” that members should plan to pay for themselves.
CHM recommends that its members set up a special savings account for these kinds of expenses. And they also recommend that members consider joining a dental and vision savings plan. The specific plan that CHM recommends is the Careington LiveWell Plan.
Christian Healthcare Ministries vs Medi-Share
Medi-Share is another Christian healthcare sharing ministry that offers an affordable alternative to health insurance. Some of the notable differences are as follows:
- Medi-Share Offers Annual Household Portions vs CHM’s Personal Responsibility per Incident. The annual household portions are more like a deductible in that medical costs accumulate until you reach a maximum out of pocket for your family for the year. CHM’s personal responsibility starts over with each new unrelated incident.
- For a healthy 36-year-old and his family of five, it costs $735 per month with Medi-Share vs $450 per month with CHM for the highest level of coverage.
- To qualify for “Healthy Monthly Share” with Medi-Share, members must pass certain physical requirements.
- Healthcare providers send bills directly to Medi-Share, who determines if eligible for sharing and submits payments to providers. However, Christian Healthcare Ministries requires members to upload bills to their member portal. The bills that are eligible for sharing are determined. And then they send the member a check directly. Members deposit the check to their bank accounts and pay the bills themselves.
- While Medi-Share also doesn’t cover dental, vision, and hearing costs, they give their members free savings cards. CHM, on the other hand, recommends the Careington LiveWell Plan, which would be an added expense.
- Chiropractic care is eligible for limited sharing with Medi-Share. But chiropractic care is completely ineligible for sharing with CHM.
- Both healthcare sharing ministries offer supplemental coverage for senior citizens who have Medicare Parts A and B.
- Medi-Share members may share funeral expenses up to $5,000 and can receive up to 6 months of disability expenses through their Manna program. CHM does not cover either of these expenses.
- Neither program covers routine visits or immunizations.
- CHM will cover well-child checkups for babies up to six weeks. Medi-Share, however, covers well-child check-ups until children are six years of age.
Check out our full review of Medi-Share here.
Summary of My Christian Healthcare Ministries Review
Health share ministries like Medi-Share, Liberty HealthShare, and Christian Healthcare Ministries all work on the same premise. Everyone in the group pays a monthly share and then can submit their medical bills to be paid by the group. But each one does it a little bit differently. Check out each company and see which one works for you.
To learn more about CHM or join the ministry, click here.
Are you a member of a health sharing ministry? How has your experience been?