Shortly after we were married and moved to Atlanta, we had a friend sign us up for medical insurance through Kaiser Permanente. For me and my wife with pregnancy coverage, our cost in 2006 was just short of $200 per month. Looking back, that was a pretty killer deal.
Over the years we had four kids and the health insurance marketplace changed dramatically. Eight years later in 2013, we were paying $1,200 per month for a family of five (any additional kids would not have raised the rate
). In 2013 our company took a sabbath year
to discover our future. During this year, finances were tight for all of us involved and we had to seriously explore alternatives.
We were recommended by a friend to check out a health sharing organization called Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM)
. Every member pays a monthly amount of money and that money is dispersed to those with medical fees. It's a voluntary shared medical fund. It's not technically health insurance but it operates like one and is valid under government medical regulations.
The top plan is the Gold tier
and it is $150 per month per person with a cap at three people. They also have a bronze and silver level with different deductible amounts. If a family has three or more members they don't pay more for the service. So, we have a family of six, but we only pay $450 per month to cover us on the top tier plan. Compared to our Kaiser plan, we now save $750 per month ($9K/year
) by switching from Kaiser to CHM.
Now, there are a few distinct differences to be aware of. The CHM deductible is per incident, not per year like most insurance plans. On the gold plan, the deductible per incident is $500. What this means is that I'm also going to pay out of pocket for small doctor visits or incidents that are less than this amount. Since we saved $9K per year, several hundred dollars in out of pocket expenses was still worth it.
The other big difference is that if I get any type of discount on my medical bills for the incident, it applies toward my deductible. We've had two incidents this year that were several thousand dollars. In both cases, we got a discount of more than $500 so we weren't financially responsible for them.
There are several types of medical services that are not covered including vaccines and chiropractic care. Before signing up, make sure to review their full list and know you'll be responsible for those things should you use CHM.
On the downside, there are a few caveats with CHM. Some of the admin work falls on us to process the medical needs. When we go to the hospital, I've got to gather the paperwork and submit it with other forms to CHM.
Payments are normally made 90-120 days after submitting a medical need. If you pay the bill upfront, you'll have to float the money. If not, you'll have to arrange a payment plan or talk with CHM on how to address it. In some cases, I've asked CHM to accelerate reimbursement so we can get a discount on services.
With that said, when we had Judah through Kaiser we were required to pay $3,000 for our Kaiser copay and hospital bill. Everything else was covered by our Kaiser insurance. With Elihu
we had switched to CHM. With his bills, we were able to get more than a $500 discount so we were not responsible for any amount during the course of Cait's pregnancy or his birth. For the pregnancy, we had better coverage with CHM.
In the last 4 years, we've saved almost $40K. We've paid for a few things here and there, but it was probably less than a few thousand dollars in total. Simply put, it was well worth it.
In addition to CHM, there are other medical sharing organizations. Some do more of the work for you and others do less. While they're all quite similar, they have different processes so I suggest exploring and comparing them all. Pick the one that best aligns with you and your situation. Here is a list of some options to get your discovery process started.
Health Sharing Providers