Christian MediShare instead of insurance?
October 30, 2017 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with Christian MediShare or any other such "healthcare sharing" programs?

It's health insurance time again, and my options are looking extremely dire. I was afforded an early peek at marketplace plans available to me and...YIKES! The cheapest Bronze-level plan was well over twice the cost of my current Silver-level marketplace plan. We're talking well into four figures per month. There is no such thing as an out-of-marketplace individual plan here in Indiana.

On my own, I would probably qualify for a subsidy, but when I add-in my wife's income, I don't. An independent insurance agent has suggested a healthcare sharing program called Christian MediShare (PDF). As near as I can tell, it's sort of a group reimbursement scheme. Beyond the fact that I would have to lie and proclaim myself a solid Christian citizen, the system feels really sketchy to me. It seems to me that you could just as easily get stuck with your medical bills as you would get assistance.

Does anyone have experience with this sort of group sharing scheme? Know anyone actually enrolled in one? I really don't want to go down this path, but it's looking like the only alternative available to me other than going without insurance altogether.
posted by Thorzdad to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should check and see if it meets the standards for minimum essential coverage - otherwise there will still be penalties for not having insurance.
posted by metahawk at 2:37 PM on October 30, 2017

Sent you a memail.
posted by jaksemas at 2:45 PM on October 30, 2017

You're not wrong to find these things really sketchy. They're not insurance in any way, and they can simply announce "hey we don't have enough money to pay your bills" and not pay any claims. And if they don't pay, you usually can't go to any kind of regulator or make a complaint. And the limitations are severe: only six months of prescription drugs for a condition and nothing for "non-Biblical lifestyles and choices," which can be anything they want it to be, and I don't know how you feel about a bunch of busybodies deciding how "Biblical" you've been before they decide whether to pay for your health care. No mental health coverage either. BuzzFeed did a lengthy story on these groups that's worth reading if you're considering this option.

That said, I sympathize if you're in Indiana and make too much to qualify for subsidies, because there aren't a lot of good choices in many areas. I'd encourage you to go to and talk to a certified navigator about all your options instead of just talking to a broker. Aspin Health Navigator appears to work statewide, or you can contact Enroll Indiana.

You should check and see if it meets the standards for minimum essential coverage - otherwise there will still be penalties for not having insurance.

Healthcare sharing ministries have an exemption written into the law despite not remotely meeting those standards.
posted by zachlipton at 2:59 PM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

You should try to figure out whether this applies in your state.
posted by praemunire at 3:22 PM on October 30, 2017

I would have to lie and proclaim myself a solid Christian citizen

They won't take your word for it; you need to be an active member of a Christian congregation.
posted by headnsouth at 3:34 PM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

By the way, it's worth noting that the penalty for not having insurance doesn't apply if (among other exemptions), the only coverage available is unaffordable. This is defined as "if the lowest cost Bronze-level plan available to you through the Marketplace in 2017 is more than 8.16% of your household income." This can apply both based on your projected income and after-the-fact based on your actual income for the year. I believe this should logically be the case for your family if you don't qualify for subsidies and the only plans are that expensive.

That's obviously not helpful in terms of getting insurance, but it means I wouldn't use a healthcare sharing ministry solely to try to avoid the penalty.
posted by zachlipton at 4:24 PM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

These are scammy as heck. I have a friend who uses them who thinks they're fantastic. She is crazy. They write letters about their needs to the administrator, who basically puts the letters in a newsletter, and then individual donors are obligated to donate $300 a month (or something like that) but they get to pick who they donate to. The upshot is that if you have a new baby, yeah, you pay nothing. But if you have diabetes, ain't nobody sending you checks. In her group, everyone who sends you money also includes a note about how they're praying for you, and the notes are often kinda nasty if you have a "lifestyle" disease or they think you made bad choices. (She talks about how great it is that they're all "holding one another accountable" which is apparently Jesus-speak for "writing nasty notes to fat people.")

There's a whole array of things they flatly don't cover, like STD treatment or birth control, and I gather they've been dropping kids with complex medical needs because it's not actually insurance and can't cover significant costs, so if your child gets sick and it's anything beyond strep throat, you're kinda fucked.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:14 PM on October 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

(I've made 2 previous comments in the US Politics threads about this stuff)

So I'm a Christian, I know people with these plans (my boss, for one, as we're a small company not eligible for group rates), and I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. The BuzzFeed article linked above gives a good overview. I'd be especially nervous if you lied on your insurance application, as that seems like a great way to get a nastygram in the mail down the road "asking" you to return the cost of all the benefits you received.

I kinda see these like MLM: the obviously work for someone, but I'm pretty sure it's no one I know (even though my friend of a friend is apparently making 6 figures a month...), and it's not a get rich quick plan, even if it's sold like that. At best it's probably a "Get (benefit x) with lots of work" plan.

That said, I'm sympathetic to you not having coverage, and I hope you can find a way to make one of these work or to find something else that helps. If you do sign up for something like this, know what the failure mode and worst-case scenarios will be, just like you'd check out the yearly deductible and maximums on actual insurance.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:33 PM on October 30, 2017

I came in here to link the Buzzfeed story that zachlipton posted above (this is Buzzfeed doing decent journalism, not a clickbait listicle, if you're wary). Short version: be very wary of these and do your homework.
I'd also be wary of any insurance agent suggesting this - might be a good idea to get advice from someone more informed.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:36 PM on October 30, 2017

My in-laws tried this, and based on their experience I say run.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:32 PM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Part of my job is to set patients up with home health services when they're discharged from the hospital. I've only had one patient with an "insurance" plan like this. It took much longer than usual to find a home health agency that would accept this person as a patient, because it takes months (at minimum) for providers to get paid. And that's for a relatively low-cost service; I'd hate to try to get anything really expensive covered.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:00 PM on October 30, 2017

Knew people who went that route. Long story short, I would stay away from any insurance that is sponsored by religious groups.
posted by james33 at 6:05 AM on October 31, 2017

OMG Hell no. Run. They don't even mention anything about privacy of your medical records...
posted by WeekendJen at 10:36 AM on October 31, 2017

My parents just started looking for a health insurance plan and multiple people have suggested these sorts of plans, so I've looked into them some and I'm half convinced they're just scams designed to prey specifically on the conservative Christian "get the government out of my healthcare" demographic.

Even if it's not a scam, it's got a lot of downsides. Primary one is all the ones I've seen won't cover pre existing conditions. They also tend to have lower age limits for adult children, e.g. an adult child can stay on only until 23 instead of 26 under the ACA. So, maybe good if you're single, childless, completely healthy, and don't expect to use it at all... but even then it's still pretty sketch.
posted by brook horse at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2017

Well, I'm glad Thorzad asked, because I was just coming over to askme to ask pretty much the same question.

The ACA is punitive, the older you get, and in states that didn't expand medicare, the insurance rates have gotten so high that the penalty is equal to one or two months worth of premiums. In our case, our income is too high to qualify for subsidies, but the lowest cost Bronze plan is almost 20% of our income.

I haven't been sleeping, because I'm so stressed out about what to do, and how we can possibly afford it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:37 AM on November 29, 2017

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