Proponents of "health care sharing" say they are not insurance plans, but ministries that cut Christians’ health care costs and tend to their souls. The groups, according to the Illinois-based Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, together include more than 300,000 Americans.
Critics point out that health care sharing programs are unregulated and that there is no guarantee that any particular medical need will be covered. As Jonathan Gruber, a health care economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNBC: “The whole goal of health care reform is to ensure that people are protected against risk and illness, and this violates that fundamental goal.”
As with similar programs, those who join CMF CURO expect other members to pay for most of their medical costs — except preventive health care and pre-existing conditions — for expenses of up to $250,000 for each medical need in the basic program.
For a two-parent household, CMF CURO costs $489 a month; an individual plan costs $264 a month. Members vote on whether to raise the costs of membership, and the program will pay health care providers 125 percent of what they get from Medicare.
CMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “I attended a religious freedom meeting recently that included a presentation by the founders of this new health sharing initiative. I asked them to candidly summarize what they have found that doctors like and don't like about health sharing ministries. (You can add your own perspective by clicking the "Comment" link below; here's what the program advocates answered.)
- What doctors like – Faith-motivated doctors can participate in a program consistent with their faith values. Doctors can have a closer patient-physician relationship, because getting paid more (the target is 125 percent of what Medicare pays) can translate into more time with patients. Health sharing programs eliminate the third parties typically involved in order to get paid, involve little to no paperwork and provide cash payment within 90 days.
- What doctors don't like – the cap on [Samaritan Ministries and CURO] benefits currently only goes to $250,000 (though a new Save to Share program will offer an unlimited amount, and a charity program will also be included). Ministry advocates gave an example of how a representative of one major healthcare institution insisted that a patient under the program would not be accepted, saying, “No, you have to have insurance.” (CURO can intervene in such cases and get involved with the non-cooperating institution.)
Whether or not you endorse health sharing ministries, if you support the ability of patients enrolled in these faith-based programs to gain equal access to health savings accounts, use our Freedom2Care easy form to voice your values on HR 207.
World Magazine - "Networks of care: Formal and informal groups of healthcare providers are keeping the poor from missing the safety net."
Comparison of Samaritan Ministries and Christian Care Ministry (does not imply endorsement)