Liberty HealthShare vs MediShare: Which One is Better for You?

Liberty HealthShare vs Medi-Share

With the explosion in the cost of health insurance in the past few years, Christian health sharing ministries are becoming increasingly popular. Two of the most popular are Liberty HealthShare and MediShare.

Which is the better of the two? It really comes down to your personal circumstances, and the specific types of coverage that will work best for you and your family.

In general, Liberty is better for monthly costs but Medishare is better for lifetime limits (they don't have one). Philip Taylor, the founder of this website, has used MediShare for several years and wholeheartedly recommends it.

But let's take a look at both ministries side-by-side, analyzing both the cost of each, as well as the individual benefit provisions they offer.

What Liberty HealthShare and Medi-Share Have in Common

Neither plan is a traditional health insurance policy in the usual sense. Instead, each is a faith-based ministry, in which members pool their contributions to pay the medical expenses of any participants who have a need.

The concept is actually very close to insurance, except neither is legally considered to be insurance in any sense of the term. But as a ministry member, you'll make monthly contributions, and have access to funds to cover your medical expenses as needed.

In each case, you're actually considered to be a self-pay patient, but one who participates in a group the shares medical costs. For the most part, health sharing ministries have been easily accepted by most medical providers, not the least of which because it's often easier for the providers to receive payment from them than from traditional health insurance plans.

Health sharing ministries also have many of the usual components of traditional health insurance. For example, they have deductible equivalents, though they’re usually referred to by a different name. They also issue their members ID cards for reimbursement purposes, very similar to those provided by health insurance plans.

But let's take a detailed look at the specific provisions offered by each ministry, as well as the plan costs.

Application Process: Liberty HealthShare vs MediShare

Liberty HealthShare. You must be healthy, and leading a healthy lifestyle. You also must not use tobacco, or abuse alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs. And as is typical with Christian health sharing ministries, you must live your life consistent with biblical principles, as well as participate in worship or prayer.

Liberty HealthShare has a Statement of Shared Beliefs that you must agree to:

Liberty HealthShare also has a First Annual Membership Fee of $135, then $75 per annual renewable.

Medi-Share. You apply by phone, and must pay a one-time non-refundable application fee of $50. You'll be required to complete three forms:

  1. Health history questionnaire
  2. Testimony & Commitment Form
  3. Statement of Faith

The Testimony & Commitment Form is a three page PDF, and it’s quite detailed. You'll be asked your specific denomination, as well as to agree or disagree with certain faith positions.

It includes certain technical information that you must acknowledge, as well as a certification that you will not engage in certain non-biblical behaviors, such as sex outside of marriage, use of tobacco, or abuse of alcohol, or legal or illegal drugs.

The Statement of Faith is as follows (a church leader may be interviewed to verify your testimony):

Once your application is approved, there is a one-time $120 new member fee payable with your first months share. You must then open a personal sharing account, which will require a $2 one-time membership fee for setting up the account. The purpose of the account is to facilitate the transfer of funds between the member sharing accounts, and to deduct program fees.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, with what appears to be a simpler application process and fewer restrictions.

You can check out our full review of Liberty HealthShare here.

Health Sharing Program Details: Liberty HealthShare vs MediShare

Deductible Equivalents

Liberty HealthShare refers to these as the “unshared amount” (unshared by the group–you pay this yourself). They have three different unshared amounts on their plans:

  • $1,000
  • $1,750
  • $2,250

Medi-Share refers to deductible equivalents as “annual household portion” (AHP). They have seven amounts:

  • $1,000 (available only to unmarried individuals, 18-29 years old)
  • $1,750
  • $3,000
  • $4,250
  • $5,500
  • $8,000
  • $10,500

Winner: Medi-Share, due to the larger number of deductible equivalent options.

You can check out our full review of Medi-share here.

Healthy Incentives

Liberty HealthShare. Not offered.

Medi-Share offers a 20% reduction in your monthly share amount for households that meet their Healthy Incentives standards. If you qualify, a $1,000 monthly share could be reduced to $800. A $500 monthly share could be reduced to $400.

To qualify, you'll have to meet the following standards:

Liberty Healthshare vs Medi-share

Winner: Medi-Share, since Liberty HealthShare has no incentives to reduce monthly shares.

Health Partners

Liberty HealthShare. For pre-existing conditions, Liberty HealthShare requires members to be enrolled in their HealhTrac program. It’s designed to help members improve their health conditions, particularly diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and tobacco use.

Members are assigned a health coach, who works with them to develop a personal plan to improve their condition. This includes setting goals, providing tools and resources, and diet recommendations. There is an additional fee of $80 per month for participation in this program. Once the member’s goals have been met, the fee is eliminated.

Medi-Share. If you're judged to be at higher risk for disease, you may be required to become a Health Partner. That will give you access to unique online healthcare content and personalized telephone-based coaching. Through the plan, you'll develop a personal plan for achieving health goals. An additional monthly fee is added to your monthly share if this is necessary.

Winner: Tie.

Age 65 and Over

Liberty HealthShare. Members 65 and over are eligible for participation in each of Liberty HealthShare’s three plans, though at a somewhat higher monthly contribution rate. No Medicare supplement equivalent plan is offered.

Medi-Share. Applicants 65 and older are not eligible for regular Medi-Share. However, they are eligible for Senior Assist, which works with Medicare part A & B. Senior Assist is similar to a Medicare supplement, covering bills that Medicare allows, but does not completely pay. These include copayments, deductibles, hospitalization, skilled nursing facility care, and out-of-country urgent care

Senior Assist has a deductible equivalent of $1,250 per person, with monthly shares as follows:

  • 65 – 70 years old, $70
  • 71 – 75 years old, $85
  • 76 or older, $95

Senior Assist has no sharing limitations on pre-existing conditions, and your membership cannot be terminated due to medical reasons.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare if you don’t qualify for Medicare; Medi-Share if you do. So let’s say Medi-Share since most people over 65 do qualify for Medicare.

Pre-certification

Liberty HealthShare. The ministry describes it as “limited pre-certification”, but it looks to be comparable to other health plans. Members must provide a pre-notification so they can be advised how to avoid unnecessary services, hospitalizations, short and in-patient confinements, and also improved quality of care and reducing expenses shared by members.

This requirement applies only to non-emergency medical procedures. Although emergency procedures must be reported within 48 hours of admission.

Medi-Share

Members are required to direct their providers to notify Medi-Share before undergoing in-patient hospitalizations, non-emergency surgeries, elective cardiac procedures, cancer treatment, or organ tissue transplant services.

Winner: Tie.

Financial Hardship

Liberty HealthShare. Not indicated.

Medi-Share. Monthly Shares may be waved for up to three months per 12 month period if the member’s illness or injury causes loss of income.

Winner: Medi-Share.

Maternity or Adoption

Liberty HealthShare. Covered up to per incident limits, as long as the mother has been a ministry member prior to conception.

Medi-Share. These services are eligible, however they are not covered if you have a deductible equivalent of less than $2,500. Sharing for maternity can be up to $125,000.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, since they don’t put any limits on coverage or deductible equivalents.

Maximum Sharing Limits (Benefits)

Liberty HealthShare. The maximum annual benefits for each of the three Liberty HealthShare plans are:

  • Liberty Complete, $1 million per incident
  • Liberty Plus, $125,000 per incident
  • Liberty Share, 70% of eligible medical expenses, up to $125,000 per incident

There are no lifetime benefit limits with any of the three plans.

Medi-Share. There are no annual or lifetime limits.

Winner: Medi-Share, since they have no limits whatsoever.

Co-payments

Liberty HealthShare. None indicated.

Medi-Share. $35 per doctor visit, and $200 for emergency room visits.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, since no copayments are required once you meet the deductible equivalent.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)/Network

Liberty HealthShare. A provider network, listing more than 23,000 preferred providers nationwide is offered. However, Liberty HealthShare does not require you to use those providers, and there is no reduction in benefits if you don't.

Medi-Share does make use of PPO providers whenever possible. These are providers who have agreed to discount their fees for plan members. If you use a non-PPO hospital or other facility, you will have an additional responsibility of either 20% of the total charges, or $500 per eligible bill, whichever is less. However, the non-PPO requirement may be waived if there is a life threatening emergency.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, since there’s no penalty for going outside the PPO.

Related Article: Help with Medical Bills Today: Avoid the Medical Debt Monster

Prescriptions

Liberty HealthShare covers Tier 4 prescriptions used for acute illness for the 45 days following each related medical incident. Tier 1, 2 and 3 prescriptions are not covered. However, Liberty HealthShares provides members with a SavNet Prescription Drug Plan discount card, offering reduced rates on prescriptions at major pharmacy chains, as well as other retail pharmacies.

Medi-Share. Drugs prescribed by a doctor, dentist, optometrist, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, midwife, or certain other professionals will be covered for up to six months.

Winner: Medi-Share for covering meds up to six months, rather than 45 days. They also seem to cover more types of prescriptions.

Medi-Share Medi-Share is a non-profit, medical expense sharing program for Christians. Members share in each other's health expenses. Medi-Share

Pre-existing Conditions

Liberty HealthShare. Excluded for the first 12 months you’re enrolled in the plan. In months 13 through 36 coverage is limited to $50,000 per year. After 36 months, pre-existing conditions are fully covered.

For pre-existing conditions, Liberty HealthShare also requires members to be enrolled in their HealthTrac program, which is described above.

Medi-Share. These are defined as signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, or medication for a condition prior to membership. Medical costs will be covered, subject to certain limits:

  • Up to $100,000 per year, if the member has been in the plan for 36 consecutive months, or the medical records state the diagnosis or condition has gone 36 consecutive months without signs, symptoms, treatment or medication.
  • Up to $500,000 per year, if the member has been in the plan for 60 consecutive months, or the medical records state that the diagnosis or condition has gone 60 consecutive months without signs, symptoms, treatment , or medication.
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol that's controlled through medication or lifestyle will not be considered a pre-existing condition.

Winner: Liberty HealthShares, since they offer some benefits in months 13 through 36, and unrestricted thereafter.

Routine and Preventative Care

Liberty HealthShare. Covered, subject to annual deductible equivalents.

Medi-Share. Physicals, immunizations and vaccinations, lab studies, screening mammograms, screening colonoscopies, and vision and dental services are not eligible for sharing. However, routine well child care is eligible until the child reaches the age of six.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, since Medi-Share specifically excludes routine and preventative care services.

Final Expenses

Liberty HealthShare. Pays up to $10,000 per primary applicant, $5,000 per dependent spouse, and $3,000 per dependent child (to age 26).

Medi-Share. Members are eligible to receive up to $5,000 for final expenses upon death. The benefit extends to stillborn children.

Winner: Liberty HealthShare, with higher benefits.

Liberty HealthShare vs MediShare–Head-to-Head Comparison

We ran the numbers for both plans, based on a family of four, in which the oldest person in the household is 40, and here were the results under both plans…

Liberty Complete

This is Liberty HealthShare’s most popular plan. It covers eligible medical costs up to $1 million per incident. It also provides the entire range of medical and pharmacy discount services.

The annual unshared amount (deductible equivalent) is $1,000 for an individual policy, $1,750 for a couple, and $2,250 for a family.

For a family of four, where the eldest member is 40, the cost of coverage is $529 per month, with a $2,250 deductible equivalent.

MediShare

Medi-Share doesn't have specific programs the way Liberty HealthShare does. Instead, you input your information, and they provide you with the table that describes the program options available. Within each, you have the option to select one of the seven deductible equivalents, in exchange for a different premium. They also give you the option for the Healthy Share price reduction (the 20% monthly share reduction), if you qualify.

In this comparison, Liberty HealthShare comes out as the less expensive option. The family will pay a monthly amount of $529, with a $2,250 deductible equivalent.

The closest Medi-hare comes is the deductible equivalent of $1,750, with a monthly share of $909. To get close to the monthly shares paid, you could select the Medi-Share’s $5,500 deductible equivalent, and get a monthly share payment of $485.

In a head-to-head comparison, you'll either have to accept a higher monthly share, or a much higher deductible equivalent with the Medi-share plan.

Which Should You Choose–Liberty HealthShare or Medi-Share?

When it comes to health care plans of any type, it’s generally not possible to say one plan is categorically better than another. Liberty HealthShare is clearly the less expensive of the two, based on monthly share amounts. But Medi-Share is superior in important categories, like lifetime benefit limits (they have none).

But next to cost, it might come down to the details of each plan. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition, Liberty HealthShare is the better choice, since benefits will apply earlier. If you need prescriptions, Medi-Share looks like the better plan.

But if we have to declare a winner, on balance it looks like Liberty HealthShare. The lower cost, in combination with their being the winner in more categories tilt the decision slightly in their favor.

But if you're considering Christian healthcare ministries, take a close look at the details of each program. What may be the better choice for someone else may not be the best for you.

Do you have any experiences with either Liberty HealthShare or Medi-share?

Comments

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  1. eric shugart says:

    Neither program is actuarially sound when it comes to pricing. Both are selecting the healthiest risk via tight underwriting and applying strict pre-existing condition limitations. As long as membership continues to grow and they keep adding new business, they will do fine. The problem is they cannot grow forever and 2019 may be a turning point in that membership in both programs may likely decline ( due o elimination of ACA mandate). Both programs are headed for what actuaries call a ‘rate spiral’ as underwriting wears off and the underlying morbidity gravitates toward the mean….As far as Medishare deductible goes, one ought to buy the highest deductible available; the lower deductible pricing makes no sense.

  2. Outstanding post! As someone that’s going to be moving to one of these plans soon, you just did a whole bunch of research for me Kevin!

    Thank you!