I'd heard of Christian Healthcare Ministries in the past, but the fact they aren't health insurance scared me. So, I'm excited to share this detailed review of Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministries.
Remember the good old days when health premiums were affordable, deductibles were low, and coverage was superb? Putting all politics aside, I think we can all agree that healthcare costs are rising, and health premiums for most people are a joke.
Like many of you, I had thoughts about what would happen if one of us got cancer or another significant disease or illness that wasn't covered by their service.
However, after taking a closer look, I learned that Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), even with major surgery, would still cover $125,000 for each treatment or surgery.
That's why my family switched and now uses Christian Healthcare Ministries instead of insurance. Here are some recent results. Out of $60,000 in medical bills this year alone (2019), we've paid $1,300 out of pocket (plus $175 per month for a family of five).
At $175 per month, that means we pay $2,100 in premiums (our annual household portion), which is less than many people pay for a quarter of a year.
If you compare this to what we would have paid with a high deductible health account or even a standard health plan, it's a fraction of the total cost. With any other program, we would have blown through the out of pocket maximum, which would have cost us thousands of dollars.
In other words, I think my family is getting dependable insurance for a fraction of what we used to pay. What follows is a detailed review that I hope you find valuable.
What is Christian Healthcare Ministries?
Christian Health Ministries is the first and oldest faith-based medical cost-sharing organization. It's a nonprofit organization in which Christian members voluntarily share each other's medical bills. They are nonprofit because cash flow is not their #1 priority.
To date, members have had over $3.5 billion worth of health care services paid for by the program.
Its mission is to “glorify God, show Christian love, and experience God's presence as Christians share each other's medical bills.” In simple terms, it's Christians helping Christians pay medical bills.
There are no restrictions based on age, weight, where you live, and some pre-existing conditions are even covered.
By participating in a health sharing care ministry, you are exempt from Obamacare requirements. For this reason, I have saved over $10,000 per year and haven't faced a tax penalty due to a lack of insurance.
And the best part is that membership costs haven't increased in 11 years! That means you are essentially paying 2008 prices for 2019 health care, which is probably a lot less than what all your neighbors are paying.
If my family had stayed on my husband's job's health insurance plan, we would have paid $9,000 in premiums annually. That's $9,000 that would have been taken directly from his paycheck for our insurance.
That means we can invest thousands of extra dollars a year with all of the money we save on healthcare costs.
Is CHM Too Good To Be True?
At first glance, you likely think that it sounds like Christian Ministries will always be less expensive than typical insurance.
And for many people, it can save them a lot of money the way it has for us. You'll hear similar stories from a lot of current members. You'll also notice that many current members will say that the cost-sharing is only part of why they love CHM shares. After all, it is a cost-sharing ministry, so the religious aspect plays a significant role.
When it comes to the cost, it's 100% possible for government-regulated insurance to be more cost-effective than CHM, but it varies on a case by case basis.
For example, with a traditional insurance plan, there is an out of pocket maximum, after which point you'll be 100% covered for all eligible expenses.
As a CHM member, you are responsible for covering the deductible. That's true regardless of how much you've incurred throughout the year.
But don't let this discourage you because you may still save a ton of money. You have to do your homework.
Current List of Health Sharing Ministries
- Samaritan Ministries
- Liberty Healthshare
- Trinity Healthshare (for which AlieraCare is an exclusive administrator)
- Altrua HealthShare
All of the above are faith-based healthcare ministries (aka “Christian care ministry”), although Trinity Healthshare is the closest to a secular healthshare.
Keep in mind that to qualify for exemption from Obamacare, you had to participate in a religious sharing organization. Otherwise, you will pay the penalty, and no one wants to do that.
I encourage you to check out each of the above providers to see if they align with your values and needs.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Review: A Detailed Look
Below let's look at how Christian Healthcare Ministries work.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Cost
Whether you're a family of three with two parents and a child or a family of 15 with two parents, 13 kids, your health cost is the same.
You pay for one unit for each adult, two units for two adults, and one unit for all of the kids in your home.
My family pays $175 per month on a mixed-coverage plan with Christian Ministries. Here's how our program works:
My husband and I each count as a single unit, so two units, times $45 per month on the Bronze level of sharing, equals $90/month.
Our kids are on the silver level of sharing, and all three kids count as a single unit together, so we pay a total of $85/month for the kids.
That totals $175 per month. However, we have different levels of coverage.
65% of members opt for the Gold option, the most costly program, which covers 100% of bills for any medical incident exceeding $500 (including discounts negotiated).
No Open Enrollment Period Means You Can Modify Your Coverage Whenever You Want
There is no open enrollment with Christian Ministries and other health-share ministries. You can sign up and make changes at any time! There are no qualifying events to worry about.
You don't have to wait for marriage (or divorce), having babies, or any of that. You make the change by calling Christian Health Ministries, and it becomes effective on the first day of the following month!
With traditional insurance through your employer, you cannot make changes to your health care coverage unless you experience a qualifying event. Christian Healthcare Ministries doesn't impose that requirement, which means we are in complete control over our health plan.
As you'll find with many of their policies and rules, they keep things a lot more simple than traditional insurance plans. There are fewer seemingly arbitrary rules that don't make sense.
Personalized Coverage Per Family Member Unit
One of Christian Healthcare Ministries' best features is that you can mix and match levels of coverage based on your family's needs. So when my son broke his wrist, requiring two surgeries, we decided to raise the kids to the silver program while my husband and I stayed on the bronze plan.
We used to pay $135 per month for our five families, but after raising the kids to a higher coverage level, we pay $175. It's worth it for the peace of mind that if anything medically happens to result in bills exceeding $1,000, they're covered.
It's great being able to mix and match based on our family's health needs. With kids active in sports, we must have a better level of coverage.
It is crucial if you or your spouse have a more active lifestyle or work in a work line that may increase the chances of having an accident.
That means a lot. Why? Because you don't need to pay for a super high level of coverage if you are healthy or don't need it. It doesn't make sense for a firefighter and a secretary to require the same healthcare coverage level since, clearly, one person has a more risky life than the other.
When our kids are older or stop playing sports, we can always move down to the bronze plan again, but for now, it's perfect for what we need—not having to wait until an open enrollment period is ideal for us to change our lifestyles.
Negotiated Discounts Count Towards Your “Deductible”
With Christian Healthcare Ministries, it's not called a deductible, per se; that's just the terminology we're all used to with health insurance. I'll explain it a bit further. Depending on which level of sharing you choose, you'll accept personal responsibility for a specific amount before Christian Healthcare Ministries sharing kicks in. They call this an unshared amount. Members share everything above.
The difference here is that this ‘deductible' or the amount you are responsible for applies to each event. So if you visit the hospital for two different ailments, you can't add the deductibles together. Each qualifying event is covered independently, so you'll be responsible for the full ‘deductible' each time.
Bronze members are responsible for the first $5,000 out-of-pocket (including discounts).
Silver members must reach $1,000 eligible medical costs before they can participate in medical sharing.
Gold members only have to reach $500 per qualifying incident before they're eligible for sharing.
Here's the best part: Christian Healthcare Ministries will negotiate with medical providers on your behalf, and whatever discounts you receive, those count towards your out-of-pocket responsibility.
So you're probably wondering why we didn't have to pay at least $5,000 out of pocket for my son's injury (even though we were on the Bronze plan). Our hospital offers a 70% discount for self-paying patients. Because we received such a massive discount, we didn't have to pay any of the $5k.
We only had to pay for x-rays as radiology isn't a covered expense on the Bronze level of sharing.
Less Annual Costs Mean you Can Save More for Retirement.
The average annual premiums of traditional insurance for a family can range from $800-$1,200 per month (and even higher). For this demonstration, let's assume you pay an average of $10,000 per year towards medical insurance premiums.
If you chose to switch to Christian Healthcare Ministries, even on the Gold plan, you'd pay $450 per month or $5,400 per year, saving you nearly 50%!
Suppose you contributed an additional $4,600 towards a pre-tax retirement account or invested in a real estate portfolio like Diversyfund. In that case, you could make your money work for you (instead of washing it down the drain on insurance premiums).
You could also save some of that money to help cover any health expenses that you do incur. So as long as you stay healthy, you will have several thousands of dollars in saved money after a few years. And once you hit retirement, you'll be covered by Medicare, so you will still get coverage when you need it most!
Christian Healthcare Ministries Reviews
Here are several reviews from current members of Christian Healthcare Ministries. I wasn't able to find a single negative review in my extensive research.
- CHM Review: Our Experience with Surgery
- Christian Healthcare Ministries Review: Cheaper than Insurance and Better Coverage?
Christian Healthcare Ministries Maternity Coverage
Maternity claims are eligible for sharing up to $125,000 per pregnancy. Here's how it works per plan:
Bronze Program – Hospital Delivery and Complications are included, but no prenatal care, midwife, postnatal care (up to 6 weeks), and pre-existing pregnancies are not eligible.
Silver Program – Plans do not include prenatal and postnatal care. Pre-existing pregnancies are ineligible for sharing. Hospital delivery, complications within the hospital, and up to $2,500 towards midwife care can be submitted for sharing.
Gold Program – The Gold program covers all but pre-existing pregnancies- including pre and postnatal care (up to 6 weeks), hospital delivery, complications, and midwife.
What does CHM say is a pre-existing pregnancy? Bills from pregnancies before you became a member get excluded from sharing, and your due date must be at least 300 days after joining Christian Healthcare Ministries.
Christian Healthcare Ministries & Dave Ramsey
If you've ever listened to AM radio, you've probably heard of a guy named Dave Ramsey.
He's a pretty big deal in the personal finance space as he has cornered the market of teaching people how to get “gazelle intense” to pay off debt.
He professes his faith regularly, so it's not surprising that he endorses Christian Healthcare Ministries (although he doesn't personally use it).
The Dave Ramsey show is the first place I heard about CHM. You can't listen to an entire 3-hour show without hearing at least one advertisement for the sharing ministry.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Promo Code
CHM has transparent pricing, but what you might not know is that they offer a pretty great referral program. There is no promo code, but if someone signs up through your referral link or member number, you receive a credit in the amount of your membership gift amount after the new member's third full month.
English, please! In other words, if your parents decide that joining a Christian Healthcare Ministry is right for them, using your referral code and your family pays $450/month for gold, you get a free month of membership after their third month as members.
And there's no limit to the number of people you can refer!
FAQ's About Christian Healthcare Ministries
Is there an enrollment fee?
There are no sign-up fees or enrollment fees associated with Christian Health Ministries. The result? More of your money goes directly into your pocket.
Are there medical tests required?
No one is ineligible from sharing, but certain pre-existing conditions aren't eligible for sharing. The Gold option has a higher level of sharing and does include some pre-existing conditions.
Christian Healthcare Ministries also has a prayer page where members can pray for those with pre-existing conditions that might not be covered. They can also sign up for Brother's Keeper for catastrophic illness.
What is Brother's Keeper In The Christian Healthcare Ministries?
Brother's Keeper is CHM's catastrophic bills program. It's a special add-on for additional coverage. It's for those bills that exceed $125,000 as per the program guidelines. It protects you if you require significant procedures or expensive treatments.
One thing to note is that in addition to the cost of the program, there is a $40 annual fee that is non-refundable.
Do I have to attend church? What if I'm not a Christian?
Christian Health Ministries is available for Christians living by biblical principles. Those principles include abstaining from tobacco use and illegal drugs and following biblical teaching on alcohol use. You must also attend group worship services regularly as health permits.
As stated earlier, this is a faith-based ministry.
Where can I get more info or sign up?
You can sign up for Christian Healthcare Ministries plans here.
Is Christian Healthcare Ministries insurance?
Christian Healthcare Ministries is not a health insurance company. It's a nonprofit healthcare sharing ministry.
Is CHM tax deductible?
Even though Christian Healthcare Ministries is a nonprofit, your expenses are not considered charitable donations from a tax standpoint. You can learn more about this here:
Each person or family's financial situation is different. Some families may have higher healthcare costs that warrant paying more for traditional health insurance. Others can save thousands by considering Christian Healthcare Ministries.
It's worth doing your research to determine if this is the right path for you.
Switching to CHM was an excellent choice for my family and me.