Picking up where I left off
Everybody has their temporary obsessions. Some people research their ancestors. Some people binge watch The Walking Dead. My temporary obsession has been researching and comparing medical cost sharing organizations (fun huh?!). These organizations offer a lawful alternative to health insurance. My previous post covered the basics of medical cost sharing. More recently, I’ve been looking at the similarities and differences between available cost sharing programs.
What makes the plans alike
At first, the various medical cost sharing plans sounded like country songs to me, basically the same. The four major organizations I researched (Samaritan Ministries, Liberty Share, Medi-Share, and Christian Health Care) share a lot in common.
- Low cost – all the plans beat the marketplace by a landslide
- Good testimonials – just like any product, there are plenty of people who can vouch for the plans based on good experiences
- A lack (somewhat) of complaints – I don’t think zero complaints is possible (people even say bad things about Qdoba for goodness sake!). But I do like to see a vast majority of good things said about a product. This is the case for medical cost sharing.
- Biblical standards – All the plans have a religious basis. Each program boasts of the community aspect of looking after each other.
- Limitations – Generally, pre-existing conditions are not covered. Costs that occur due to “non-Christian” activities (excessive drinking, sex, etc.) are also not covered
What makes the plans different
When I boiled down pros and cons In my research of different medical sharing plans, a few of factors differentiated one plan from another that applied to my needs. First, I want the least amount of leg work in negotiating medical bills. This was based on personal inexperience and wanting to avoid hassle during a possibly stressful time for Alli. Second, having a network of medical providers that could at least guide my choices is important to me personally. Third, the more automated and electronic the money transfer is, the better for me. Lastly, having a personal reference nearby to answer my questions is valuable. Here’s how the sharing plans fared in my personal demolition derby of medical cost sharing. A more thorough comparison was done at medicalcostshare.com.
Christian Health Care
|Network of Providers||No||No||Yes – PCHS network||No|
|Automated Money Transfers||No – checks sent in mail||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Personal References||Yes – 3 positive references||No||No||No|
Based on personal references giving confidence to the concept of medical cost sharing (although most of the stories were about Samaritan Ministries), I decided to go ahead and apply for medical cost sharing through Medi-Share. One perk that helped seal the deal was a health discount (based on BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol) on the monthly share.
Hedging my bet
Remember that budget crunch I mentioned in my last post – 950 more dollars out of pocket per month – those skinny jeans I was dreading putting on? I think I found a pair (slim fit), that will be the best of both worlds.
I have to give credit where it’s due on this one – my wife. She crafted a plan where we cautiously use Medi-Share for a year to see how things function when the rubber meets the road. The money we save each month would be set aside in a separate account – Health Savings Account (after tax unfortunately) and/or a different checking account, to serve as a medical emergency fund. We already have an emergency fund and HSA set up with reasonable sums, so we won’t be starting at ground zero . We have an escape hatch in September of 2018 when my employer-based insurance plan has open enrollment.
Here’s how I broke down the costs of healthcare insurance vs. Medi-Share. I based this on 15 doctor visits and 2 emergency room visits.
|12 x 950 = 11,400||Monthly Premiums||12 x 250 = 3000|
|0 – covered||Dental and Vision||12 x 100 = 1200 (separate plan)|
|Max Family Deductible||2500|
|0||Co-pay||15 visits x 35 = 525
2 ER visits x 135 = 270
Total visit costs = 795
The plan is to save $600 per month (950 plan – 350 plan) in the first year to pad the emergency fund and Health Savings Account. Are there scenarios that are unpredictable and tragic? Yes. But Medi-Share is supposed to step up in these situations and hopefully our testimonial would have the same positive ring as the testimonials on their website. I’m predicting possible buyer’s remorse or anxiety until that first medical bill is paid in full (hopefully with the help of others!). Stay tuned.
Update – 7 Months After Choosing MediShare
This was the best case scenario for the follow-up I didn’t want to write. I was lamenting about having a sick wife or child and finding out on the fly how medical cost sharing works with MediShare. This past month, the inevitable happened – we had to walk into the medical clinic. Luckily, this was only a check-up! It served as a learning experience as we were getting a handle on how well medical cost sharing would work.
My wife, Alli, walked into our child’s medical building, which MediShare lists as an accepted health care facility because of its participation in the PHCS network. The MediShare card she was holding looked just like an insurance card with instructions for providers and patients. It did not go well at the front desk. There was confusion (by everyone), frustration (by Alli), and tears (by the baby) as the front desk refused to take down the information. They were insistent that Alli submit bills directly to MediShare, which is contrary to what MediShare instructs.
Alli then went to work to clear this up with MediShare, which to their credit, was willing to fix. Since MediShare isn’t near as common as normal insurance, this health provider wasn’t up to speed as to how MediShare works. MediShare insured us that they would contact the health provider to get things smoothed out. After many days and multiple phone calls, things seem to be working as they we expected with this health care provider.
Alli and I knew going in that there would be a trade off for our savings with MediShare ($700 per month on premiums alone!). This would require leg work by us and new hoops to learn how to jump through. Our monthly costs have remained low, which has done wonders for our monthly budget.
It will take a lot more hassle to make us reconsider MediShare – the savings per month are simply too big!
What factors are important to you when you think about your health care options?
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