Understanding the Pros and Cons of Health Share Plans: a Comprehensive Guide

Health care jargon explained
Health insurance 101
Health plans
Healthcare industry

Healthcare in the United States has always been a topic of significant debate, with the cost of care and access to insurance at the forefront of concerns for many Americans. Amid these discussions, a variety of health coverage options have emerged, one of which is the health share plan. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of health share plans, providing a balanced look at their benefits and drawbacks to help you decide if they are a viable alternative to traditional insurance for your healthcare needs.

Introduction to Health Share Plans

Health share plans are arrangements where a group of individuals voluntarily come together to share in each other's medical expenses. Unlike traditional health insurance, which is a contract between an individual and an insurer, health share plans are typically organized around common ethical or religious beliefs. Members of these plans contribute a monthly share amount, which is then used to pay for the eligible medical expenses of others in the group.

Since their inception, health share plans have grown in popularity, particularly among those seeking a more community-oriented approach to managing health care costs. Organizations such as Christian Healthcare Ministry, Liberty HealthShare, Samaritan Ministry, and newer entities like Sedera and OneShare are leading examples of this healthcare model.

The Ins and Outs of Health Share Insurance

From the provider's perspective, a health share plan is not insurance but rather a cooperative sharing program. These plans operate on a non-profit basis, managing the contributions of members to ensure that funds are available for shared medical expenses. For members, the allure of health share plans is often rooted in their lower monthly costs and the direct impact their contributions can make on the lives of others within the community.

A crucial aspect of health share insurance plans is their emphasis on "eligible medical expenses." Not all health costs are shareable; each health share plan has its guidelines on what can be reimbursed.

Underlying Principles of Shared Healthcare

Health share plans are grounded in the principle of mutual aid and community support. They are inherently different from traditional insurance, which is based on actuarial risk assessment and for-profit models. The bedrock of shared healthcare systems like CHM, Samaritan, and Zion Health is often a set of moral or religious tenets, which not only guide which expenses are shared but also the behavior expected of members.

Pros of Health Share Plans

Connection to Community

Members of health share plans often report a sense of belonging and purpose, as they are directly contributing to the well-being of others in their community. This social aspect can be as compelling as the financial benefits for many participants.

Potential Cost Savings

Without the overhead associated with traditional insurers, health share plans can offer significant cost savings. Monthly contributions are often lower, and administrative costs are kept to a minimum.

Flexibility and Control

Members enjoy greater autonomy in their healthcare decisions, often with the ability to choose their providers and negotiate healthcare costs directly.

Cons of Health Share Plans

Coverage Uncertainty

There is no guarantee that all medical costs will be covered since health share plans are not bound by the same regulations as traditional insurance plans. What is deemed an "unshared" expense can leave members with unexpected out-of-pocket costs.

Lifestyle Restrictions

Many health share plans, particularly those based on religious principles, require adherence to specific lifestyle choices, which can exclude potential members or certain "pre-existing conditions" from being shareable.

Lack of Traditional Protections

Health share plans are not subject to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and therefore may not offer the same protections, such as minimum essential coverage or caps on out-of-pocket costs.

Comparing Health Share Plans to Traditional Insurance

Health share plans may offer advantages in terms of community and cost, but traditional insurance provides predictability and security. Traditional health insurance is required to cover a range of essential health benefits and cannot exclude individuals based on pre-existing conditions. For those with more significant healthcare needs or who prefer the assurance of a regulated insurance plan, traditional insurance may be more beneficial.

Conversely, for individuals in good health who prioritize lower monthly costs and have the desire to be part of a like-minded community, a health share plan could be more appealing.

Conclusion: Is a Health Share Plan Right for You?

Deciding whether a health share plan is suitable for you depends on a variety of factors, including your health status, financial situation, and personal values. Understanding the pros and cons of health share plans is crucial before making a decision. It is also essential to research the specifics of each plan, as they can vary widely in their offerings and requirements.

For some, the community aspect and potential savings of health share plans are compelling; for others, the security and comprehensive coverage of traditional insurance are non-negotiable. Whatever you choose, make sure it aligns with your healthcare needs and financial capabilities.

Addressing the Top Questions:

  1. Are health share plans a good idea? Health share plans can be a good idea for those seeking a cost-effective alternative to traditional health insurance, but it's essential to be aware of their limitations and the lack of certain protections that traditional insurance provides.
  2. What is a shared plan in health insurance? A shared plan in health insurance refers to health share plans, where a community of members shares healthcare costs among themselves rather than relying on a conventional insurance model.
  3. What is the downside of Medi-Share? Medi-Share, like other health share plans, may not cover all types of medical expenses, and members must adhere to specific lifestyle principles. It is not insurance and doesn't guarantee coverage for all health needs.
  4. How does employee share scheme work? While not directly related to health sharing, an employee share scheme typically involves employees owning shares in the company they work for, which is a different concept from sharing healthcare costs.
  5. What are the 3 elements of a cost-sharing health insurance plan? These are deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance. However, health share plans might define cost-sharing differently, focusing on shareable vs. unshared expenses.
  6. What is the difference between classic and basic Samaritan? Samaritan offers different levels of sharing, with the classic option generally providing broader coverage at a higher monthly share amount compared to the basic option.
  7. What is Samaritan share? Samaritan Share is a type of health share plan offered by the Samaritan Ministries, which allows members to share healthcare costs according to the ministry's guidelines.
  8. How much is Medishare per month? The monthly share amount for Medishare varies based on the age of members, the number of people participating, and the annual household portion selected.
  9. How does medishare insurance work? Medishare operates on a sharing model where members pay monthly shares that are used to help pay other members' eligible medical bills, in accordance with the organization's guidelines.
  10. Is Samaritan considered health insurance? No, Samaritan Ministries is not considered health insurance. It is a health cost-sharing ministry that facilitates the sharing of medical expenses among its members.

Welcome to Decent: a new kind of health plan.

Join our monthly newsletter to stay in the know!


More posts