By Philip Taylor
Update (2017 Plan): Our experience with Medishare is still very positive after 3 years.
In short, we have higher out of pocket expenses, but significant savings on monthly premiums (our monthly "share" is $265 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. Not ready? Read the rest of my review below...
Update (Dec 2014): We've been on Medishare for roughly seven months now. It's been a positive experience.
In summary, 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:
Here's a quick screenshot of our deductible (or “annual household portion”) usage:
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 an 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.
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.”
Let'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 very significant savings.
Medi-Share is affordable compared to health insurance because they are still allowed to discriminate.
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 for qualifying medical expenses. We plan to use ours for expenses that aren't covered by 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
It takes a while to go through the application process so leave yourself plenty of time. Here are the major steps:
Thanks for reading my review. I'll update it as I get more experienced in the program.
Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, financial writer, podcaster, FinCon Founder, 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 Google+. Listen to the new podcast, Masters of Money!