Medishare Review (2017 Update): The Affordable Alternative to Obamacare

Update (2017 Plan): Our experience with Medishare is still very positive.

Higher out of pocket expenses (given our $10,000 annual household portion, aka deductible), but significant savings on monthly premiums (our monthly share is $235 for our family of five).

Given the recent rise in premiums through the Obamacare exchanges, I know we’re continuing to see even greater savings by being a part of this program. We’re still with our same doctors and we’re still getting the care we need.

And for those keeping track, I have lost the weight to get out from under the additional health charge, putting $80 a month back in my pocket!

Get Started: Request your Medishare information packet.

Update (Dec 2014): We’ve been on Medishare for roughly seven months now. It’s been a positive experience.

In summary, we we pay a bit more for our doctor visits, but it doesn’t compare to the premium savings we’ve experienced. We also continue to use the same medical professionals we’ve been using for years.

Lastly, if I can get my act together and lose some more weight, we’ll save an additional $80 a month on the premium (share).

When doing a straight cost comparison over the last seven months, we’ve saved $4,388. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • With Obamacare we would have paid a minimum of $7,700 ($1,100 x 7 months) in premiums.
  • With Medishare we’ve paid $1,960 ($280 x 7 months) in premiums.
  • Copays are roughly the same under both plans.
  • With Medishare we’ve paid roughly $70 each for five sick visits for the kids, and $475 each for the two well visits (six months and nine months) for our son. This totaled up to roughly $1,352.83. The well visits were a shock, but still not as shocking as an Obamacare premium.

Here’s a quick screenshot of our deductible (or “annual household portion”) usage:

Medishare Annual Household Portion

My Original Medishare Review

Looking for an alternative to Obamacare? Medishare is a money saving alternative. Check out PT's review here to find out if Medishare can work for you and your family.I just dropped my $1,100/mo health insurance plan with Humana.

Before you think I’m crazy – I am after all a married father of three and a U.S. Citizen with a IRS-enforced mandate hanging over my head – listen to what I replaced it with.

I joined the Christian medical expense sharing community, Medi-Share, for around $275/mo.

Medi-Share is not insurance (nor is it charity as you’ll see). But it’s a great alternative for some; and if you have it, you’re exempt from the Obamacare mandate.

Below I’ll share the advantages and disadvantages of signing up with MediShare. And I’ll share my signup experience so you can know what to expect if you want to join.

What is Medi-Share?

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

Essentially, each month, we all place our monthly share (like a premium) into one big pot (technically a credit union account), and those with expenses use that money to pay their bills. It’s not insurance. But for some, it is the ideal replacement for health insurance.

Here’s more from Medi-Share:

“Medi-Share is a healthcare sharing program where Christians share financial resources to pay each other’s medical expenses. Since 1993, over $875 million has been shared and discounted among Medi-Share members. It’s a proven biblical model of healthcare–Christians helping Christians.”

Advantages of MediShare

medishare-how-it-worksLet’s explore some of the positives of this sharing program.

Escape the current health insurance market. If you’re like me – self-employed and making a solid income – the implementation of Obamacare was likely a major bummer on a financial level. Obamacare took away my low-cost, high-deductible health insurance plan.

I used to pay $300 a month for a $10,000 deductible policy. Obamacare took that away and replaced it with a $1,100 a month plan.

Like me, you may also fundamentally disagree with Obamacare – the completely partisan implementation, the administration’s half-truths, selective enforcement, collusion with insurance companies, and wasteful rollout, as well as, how your health insurance premiums are being used under Obamacare.

Medi-Share allows you to leave all that behind. I cannot express the joy of being able to check out of the system and not having to face a penalty or high premiums for the rest of my life.

Significantly lower cost than the current unsubsidized health insurance market. Compared to unsubsidized health insurance under Obamacare, Medi-Share is a huge money saver. My example above shows a very significant savings. If you’re not sure if you’re subsidized or not, check the calculator linked from this post.

Medi-Share is affordable compared to health insurance because they are still allowed to discriminate.

Disadvantages of Medi-Share

Let’s explore some of the challenges of the program (which can be many).

Currently unable to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA). Since Medi-Share is not insurance, you can’t qualify for an HSA (yet). HSA’s as you know, require you to have a high-deductible health insurance plan. This is a major bummer for me. I was really enjoying the annual tax deduction from contributions to our HSA.

Medi-Share is currently working with Congress on a bill that might allow HSAs to be used with sharing programs. I’m contacting my Representative to ask him to support this.

Don’t worry if you already have funds in an HSA. You can still use them on qualifying medical expenses. We plan to use ours on expenses that aren’t covered through our particular Medi-Share plan.

No tax deductions. Health insurance premiums are tax-deductible. Medi-Share contributions are not. That said, medical expenses are still deductible, subject to a threshold based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income.

As you can see, MediShare is not for everyone. But it’s seeing massive growth across the U.S.

medishare-membership-growth

Other Considerations

It’s important to understand how Medi-Share works. It’s not a charity, or a way for Christians to help the needy. My tithe to the Church or individual giving through certain charities is how I take care of that.

Medi-Share is simply sharing among believers. So to have the right to share, you have to be a believer and living an active Christian lifestyle…

No coverage for medical expenses related to unbiblical (i.e. not Christ-like) activities. Get injured in an accident where you were driving drunk? No coverage. Get an STD from an extra-marital affair? No coverage. When you join Medi-Share, you agree to live your life according to biblical principals.

You must have a Christian faith and be attending Church regularly. To participate in the program you’ll need to sign a form professing your faith and share your Church information.

Restrictions for maternity expenses. Expecting? Don’t expect to just jump on MediShare six months in and get full coverage. You can have children on the plan, but to get full coverage you will have to be participating in the plan before you get pregnant. Otherwise, coverage has limitations.

Restrictions for pre-existing conditions. Common sense dictates that to make Medi-Share work, you can’t just have people jumping on the program after they discover a major medical need. If you do have a major medical issue (or have one in remission) you might be allowed to join Medi-Share with limitations.

How Much is Medi-Share

My plan – I’m 38 with a spouse and 3 kids – currently costs $277.00 a month with a $10,000 Annual Household Portion (i.e. deductible). That includes a monthly share (i.e. premium) of $197.00 and a Health Partners fee of $80 (i.e. premium increase due to weight).

A similar plan with a $2,500 deductible will run you $506.00 a month for the basic premium. Here’s a chart based on my age and number of people on the plan:

MediShare Costs

My Experience with Medi-Share

I just came into the program, so this section will be updated in a few months after I’ve had a few expenses. But initially I can say that I’m happy to be a part of Medi-Share. Making a $277 payment vs $1,100 is a huge boost to our monthly budget, to say the least.

My daughter had to go to the pediatrician this week (cold and fever) and the experience was not unlike what we’re used to. We went to our same doctor, paid a $35 co-pay, and left. I’m assuming we’ll get a bill from Medi-Share if, based on our plan and deductible (called the Annual Household Portion), we owe more. Medicine was paid out of pocket, but looks to be reimbursable after I submit a form.

Be sure to see the update at the top of this post.

Is Medi-Share for You?

There’s a lot on the line when it comes to your family’s medical needs. Take plenty of time to evaluate all of the pros and cons of the program and don’t forget to consider your long-term concerns. Are you having more children? Will you get married soon? Are you about to retire and qualify for medicaid? All these things, and more, make a difference.

Medi-Share makes sense for my family because:

  • We are self-employed Christians and don’t mind being obligated to the coverage restrictions related to lifestyle.
  • Our income will likely exclude us from being subsidized in the Obamacare health insurance marketplace. Medi-Share gives us considerable monetary savings.
  • We don’t have pre-existing conditions and we don’t plan on having anymore children (i.e. we don’t have maternity care needs).

How to Join Medi-Share

It takes a while to go through the application process so leave yourself plenty of time. Here are the major steps:

  1. Request information about the program.
  2. Apply.
  3. Complete the medical forms and testimony of faith.
  4. Complete the power of attorney for the share account (set up with a credit union).
  5. Make your first share payment.

Thanks for reading my review. I’ll update it as I get more experienced in the program.

Medishare Summary

Medishare Summary
9.5

Rating

10/10

    Pros

    • significant cost savings over Obamacare
    • excellent customer service
    • promotes Christian values
    • easy to sign up

    Cons

    • not HSA eligible
    • not tax deductible
    Last Edited: November 29, 2016 @ 10:32 pmThe content of ptmoney.com is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to ptmoney.com should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
    About Philip Taylor

    Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, financial writer, FinCon CEO, and husband and father of three. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

    Comments

    1. RetiredBy40 says:

      Totally makes sense!  We are lucky enough to have tricare, but if we didn’t, espeically with this whole ACA craziness, we would definitely be considering doing something like Medi-share or one of the other Christian cost-sharing options.  Way to go thinking out of the box!

    2. I think it’s great that this exists as an option for people, I only hope that by the time we’re out of traditional employment there will be similar options without the faith-based requirements.  We don’t mind the lifestyle restrictions as we probably comply with them all in our normal lifestyle anyhow, but as agnostics we’d be excluded.

    3. Plantingourpennies I think you’ll definitely see it happen.

    4. RetiredBy40 Thanks, I can’t take much credit. Bob from Christian PF was my guinea pig. He’s been on it for almost 5 years now and they now have a little one. If it was a good fit for him, it’s likely a good fit for me.

    5. GaelicWench says:

      I respect your posting, PT, about this “outside the box” method of being able to receive medical care. Through the Affordable Care Act, I have to say that I am finally, FINALLY able to get health care for my pre-existing condition (chronic pain). This after either being turned down on a continual basis by insurance companies or paying unreasonable premium rates and deductibles with riders attached. 

      I guess I am grateful for the little things. You may have had exceptional healthcare prior to the President’s implementation of his signature ACA, but I didn’t. Respectfully speaking, it’s a reasonable trade-off, I’d have to say. 
      My druthers? Universal healthcare and medical marijuana. And before I am accused of being a socialist/communist, I’m a centrist, with leanings to the right for the military might and to the left for the social nets. I believe in balance so everyone can benefit, and that includes healthcare. Just sayin’. Thanks for an informative posting. I always enjoy reading them.

    6. HullFinancial says:

      An old neighbor just had their 4th child and the first through this program and they were very pleased with it. It’s intriguing, though I’d be concerned about the financial stability of the underlying organization. The same risks apply for standard health insurance, but it seems like they’re more quantifiable.

    7. brokeandbeau says:

      While I think it’s great that these options exist, I take issue that I don’t have access to a similar resource just because I don’t subscribe to a faith.  Luckily, I qualify for Medicare under the ACA.

    8. Your Medi-Share premium could fluctuate some but you will save big over the years.  The pool is administered well with little if any admin costs.  I have clients that have used this Christian pool over the years and had big savings for the family.

      Makes you think that if a simple Christian pool can handle a medical program with little admin., then why cant we do better at the Federal/State program level.
      Big question; what will ACA be like in the coming years as a cost to taxpayers?

    9. My husband and I also signed up for Medi-Share when Oabamacare came along. We love it because of the Christian community and support feel and also because there is no annual or lifetime limit and they gave us a $23/mo discount because we met their health incentive requirements.

    10. Eric McClain says:

      How does it work for significant medical expenses like a long hospital stay?

    11. Thanks for sharing your experience, Phil. My wife and I are planning to change our insurance. We looked at this before, but didn’t do it. We will give it more consideration this time around.

    12. Could you provide detail as to why you chose the 10K plan as opposed to a lower one? Just for a lower monthly payment? Considering making the switch too.

      • Hi Caroline. Yes, I chose 10k because it significantly lowered by premium/share and because we have that amount and more in an emergency fund to cover it. Our actual out of pocket medical expenses each year are around $1500-2000 (mostly doctors visits and well checks), so we’d have to have a <1500 deductible to actually use it. Medishare offers the $1250 deductible, but it would take our monthly share to >$500. That’s $250 more than we pay now. So we’d be paying $1750 more in monthly share/premium total each year to save $250-750 in deductible savings. Doesn’t make sense. Obviously if you’ll expect more out of pocket expenses and/or if you don’t have a big emergency cushion (aka self-insured) then my choice might not be right for you. Hope that makes sense. Good luck!

        • Philip,
          I SO appreciate it. We have run the numbers in a variety of ways and I wanted to ensure our thinking was along the same lines. Thank you. Also, do you happen to know if a doctor/hospital is not approved, do we have the option to use them and them submit the bill after we negotiate rates?

    13. Teresa Karshner says:

      Have a friend that has Obama Care. Not happy with it. She has two questions:
      1. Do most of the physicians accept this insurance?
      2. If she would be diagnosed with cancer in the first six months would this insurance cover her?
      Thanks!

      • Hi Teresa! 1. All my physicians have, but I don’t think all do, no. You can use the tool on the Medishare site to check your physicians and the ones in your area. 2. I don’t see why not. But I would grab the info packet and then call Medishare to talk about different scenarios.

    14. I’m looking into applying for Samaritan Ministries (a similar health sharing organization) and after reading this will look into MediShare. If it’s not too nosy can you share why you chose one over the other? Thanks!

      • I didn’t look into Samaritan that much. Some friends were already using Medishare and so their testimonial did a lot for me.

      • We chose Medishare as it operated in a manner more similar to traditional insurance.

        With Medishare, we go to a doctor (on their provider list!), give them our Medishare card, pay a “co-pay”. They send their bill to Medishare for processing. The charge is written down to the allowable charge. If you’ve reached your “annual household portion” (think: deductible), they will pay the amount due. If not, your doctor will bill you the balance due (after writing it down to the allowable charge). Your monthly share amount goes straight to Medishare and they will pay the doctor.

        With Samaritan (as I understand it), you go to a doctor of your choice and negotiate a cash price. You will pay the bill when services are rendered. If the bill is above your “deductible” amount (ex. $300), you can submit it to Samaritan and they will pass it along to specific members. Those members will then send you checks for the amount over your “deductible.” In other words, members pay each others bills directly, instead of going through a central clearinghouse (like Medishare).

        The principle is the same for both, but the execution is very different.

        John

        • I’m more attracted to the Medishare way of doing things since it is more like insurance, but whenever I plug my zip code into their provider search there are none in my area. And since Samaritan’s HQ is fairly close to us hopefully the local doctors/hospitals are used to dealing with it. Thank you for both your answers.

    15. Denise Andrews says:

      We are ready to sign up for Medishare but I am still reading reviews and trying to get as much information as I can. Currently we have ACA and our deductible and premiums have skyrocketed. Our plan is to finish out this year with our current insurance and to start with Medishare at the 1st of the year. It is either this or we go without insurance all together and just pay the penalty. At least with this we are covered for catastrophic. My question is this. I understand that there is no “guarantee” that your bill will be covered. What does this mean? Suppose we pay into the program for years and then something happens that we have to use the coverage. Can they just randomly decide that they don’t want to cover? This makes me a little nervous.

      • Well, they are a not-for-profit and run by Christians. So I don’t think they’re in the business of randomly taking advantage of people or failing. They have a proven track record with their customer base and major complaints are either non-existent or few and far between. I’m not sure if the no guarantee disclaimer is there because of their “lifestyle” requirements or because of some type of underlying regulation they need to follow. I’m planning an interview with them soon and will ask this question.

      • I think they can’t use the word guaranty as that would imply it’s insurance. They have been in existence for a long time and have always paid the “covered” items. Plus they have grown significantly since the ACA became law and that can only serve to make them stronger (as the pool of people paying in is larger).

        I, too, was a bit worried about not have insurance guarantees when we first began our Medishare coverage, but after much prayer and research we began our coverage 1/1/2016. No regrets!

        John

    16. We have been with Medishare for almost one year. It’s been a great success so far! It can be initially frustrating paying for some services formerly covered by traditional insurance, but then I remind myself of the $10k savings per year in insurance premiums!

      The MDLive tele-health feature is great, too, and it’s free for Medishare subscribers!

      A worthy option for consideration. Thanks for the review – and updates, PT.

      John

    17. A_Fellow_Believer_NG says:

      Thanks for sharing. This is the first time I heard about Medi-Share and I think this is a great idea. I am thinking of joining. However I have some questions.

      1. The FAQ on ‘https://mychristiancare.org/medi-share/what-is-medishare/faqs/’ says “We do not collect premiums, make promise of payment, or guarantee that your medical bills will be paid. Sharing of medical bills is completely voluntary.” This means unlike a traditional insurance there is no guaranteed coverage. One questions that I always ask while getting an insurance policy is “what is total cost in the worst case scenario?” So with Medi-Share what is the “worst case scenario cost”?
      2. My employer offers an MEC (minimum essential coverage – HSA eligible) plan. If I get Medi-Share and also enroll into my employer offered plan, will I be eligible to make contributions to HSA?

      • A_Fellow_Believer_NG says:

        A small correction to the first questions – “With Medi-Share what is the “worst case scenario cost” for person who abides by all life style and faith based restrictions?

      • A_Fellow_Believer_NG: While I am sure PT will respond to this as well, here are my thoughts in regards to your questions:

        1. The reason Medishare can’t use those terms is that it would imply that the coverage is insurance, which it obviously is not. Regarding the “worst case scenario cost”, I suppose it would be that any cost above your Annual Household Portion (think “deductible”) that should have been shared with other members, won’t be shared and you would be on the hook. If you used a network provider, the fees should still be written down to the allowable charge (as this wouldn’t require anything out of Medishare). If you hadn’t hit your AHP, you are no worse off as you would have to pay the written down charge anyway. Is there more potential risk than traditional insurance? Yes! But they have a long history of 100% payment of covered expenses. You will have to get comfortable with this potential “worst case”, as well all have to do.
        2. Not sure why you’d want both MEC and Medishare, but my understanding is that you could contribute to the HSA because of the MEC coverage (if, like you mentioned, it is an HSA eligible plan). Also paying for Medishare shouldn’t disqualify you from contributing to an HSA (if you have the MEC coverage, too). But again, why are you considering having both??

        John

        • 1. What John said. Also, see my response to Denise above.
          2. While that might allow you to contribute to an HSA it might also affect your payouts. If Medishare knows you have coverage somewhere else it might affect your ability to use the share. I would call them about this.

    18. Dear Philip, you mention that you are paying $277.00 a month with a $10,000 Annual Household Portion for Medi-Share. You say that your Medi-Share contributions are not tax-deductible – but can your Medi-Share contributions be listed as a charitable deduction on one’s tax returns? If not, is there any way to deduct one’s Medi-Share contributions on a tax return? Thanks in advance for letting me know, Karen

      • Hey, Karen. While you’re waiting for PT to respond, I can shed a little light on your questions (I use Medishare and am a CPA). Medishare payments are not deductible. There is no way to make them so. As it’s not “insurance”, even self employed taxpayers (like myself), cannot deduct the payments. Medishare does have an “extra blessings” program to help pay non-covered medical bills of others that may be deductible depending on how they are processed. But these are extra, optional payments….not what you are required to pay to participate (like PT’s $277/mo., for example).

        I wish we could deduct the payments, but I’ll have to “settle” for only paying about 25% of what I was with traditional coverage!

        John

        • Great answer, John. Agree. Thanks for jumping in!

        • Hello! I appreciate your insight as a CPA. We are self-employed & our United Health plan is cx our coverage next July. It’s a high deductible HSA. Thankfully they’ve given us plenty of notice. I’ve been researching other insurances & am intrigued by the many health share options like MediShare. Do you find that it is better for you financially to go with MediShare than to take the insurance premium deductions allowable with traditional insurance? We are very healthy & rarely need to see a doctor aside from annual check ups. Thanks!

          • Stephanie,

            For our family, it was definitely financially worth switching to Medishare, even though we lost the ability to contribute to an HSA and deduct the contributions and insurance premiums. Our monthly coverage cost dropped by about 75%, although a small amount of this savings was lost in higher out of pocket cost for wellness checkups (covered under ACA plans). In fact, the savings are enough to virtually eliminate our Annual Household Portion we would have to pay if we had a large claim (which, fortunately, we haven’t had this year). I hate to lose the tax savings, but marginal tax rates aren’t nearly as high as the monthly payment reductions!

            John

    19. Hello,

      I am considering the medishare. I am also self employed with a HSA account that I have built up over the last few years. Can I still contribute to a HSA even though I do not have a ACA medical plan? I am kind of confused on this. I know the medishare does not qualify me to get a HSA but since I already have a HSA can I keep contributing? Even If I can not, I am pretty sure that I am coming out ahead with the medishare with the low premiums.

      • Joe,

        You can only contribute new money to an HSA while you have an HSA compliant high deductible insurance plan (your contributions are pro-rated if you have eligible insurance coverage for part of a tax year). Medishare does not qualify since it is not “insurance”. You can, of course, continue to manage the funds you already have in the HSA, you just can’t add to it.

        For us, even losing the deduction for the insurance premiums and HSA contributions, we came out far ahead with Medishare.

        John

    20. Our church does not provide group health insurance to our 2 FT pastors. We can no longer pay their personal insurance premiums so we’ve increased their pay by $10,000 to help cover the premiums. This also increases the payroll taxes, etc. Since medishare isn’t insurance, do you know if the church could pay the premiums?

      • Gretchen, I see no reason why the church couldn’t either pay the monthly share or reimburse the pastor for it. And since it’s a benefit, the church should be able to deduct it as an ordinary and necessary expense.

    21. Thank you for all the great info! We are a healthy Christian family of 5 (ages 44, 44, 13, 9 and 4) and the affordable care act is crushing us. For 2017 we will have to pay $1531/mo for the highest deductible plan. We could go slightly less if we omit children’s hospital but that seems foolish in case there was ever an emergency or a major change in one of our children’s health. My tubes are tied so maternity coverage is not needed but we are having trouble deciding what to do. My husband is a little weary of potential (unknown) risks with Christian health share accounts and is toying with reducing our tithe and sticking with an ACA. We’ve always tithed 10% and I’m struggling with that idea. My family has been complaining about my hearing and I’m scheduled for a test on 12/14. I’m afraid to pursue this tho in case of creating a pre-existing condition. If you have any recommendations I’d appreciate hearing them.

      • Definitely put your health first and get your hearing checked regardless of your insurance situation. Medishare is really good about talking through these potential issues and questions. Request the packet from them and then call them up for advice is what I’d do. Good luck, Kim.

    22. Thank you Philip! I’ve been hesitant to do anything that will negatively impact my family but as I ponder this, I realize I would give the same advice you gave me to someone else. I will contact medishares to see if I would still be eligible depending on the outcome.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to me!
      Kim

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