The Great Healthcare Debate – Part 2

heart lineCombatting Rising Health Care Costs

As a result of the rising cost of health insurance, memberships in health care sharing organizations are rising.

A health care sharing ministry is an organization that facilitates sharing of health care costs among individual members, in the United States, who have common ethical or religious beliefs. A health care sharing ministry does not use actuaries, does not accept risk or make guarantees, and does not purchase reinsurance policies on behalf of its members. Members of health care sharing ministries are exempt from the individual responsibility requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare. This means members of health care sharing ministries are not required to have insurance as outlined in the individual mandate.

In order for members to be exempt from the tax penalties outlined in the Affordable Care Act, ministries must meet the following qualifications:

• Must be a 501(c)(3) organization
• Members must share common ethical or religious beliefs
• Must not discriminate membership based on state of residence or employment
• Members cannot lose membership due to development of a medical condition
• Must have existed and been in practice continually since December 31, 1999 (a grandfather clause)
• Must be subject to an annual audit by an independent CPA which must be publicly available upon request

Four ministries that meet these qualifications are:

• Christian Healthcare Ministries (established 1981)
• Liberty Healthshare (established 1998)
• MediShare (established 1993 under Christian Care Ministry)
• Samaritan Ministries (established 1994)

Some programs are more inclusive in their statement of faith than others. All have restrictions on excessive drinking, and require abstaining from tobacco and illegal drugs.

You still have a basic amount of out of pocket costs before any of your medical expenses are eligible for coverage. There is also a cap on medical expenses covered per incident. However, you are free to choose your medical care provider. Many organizations also have tools to help you evaluate the cost of medical services in your area. They help you be a more informed consumer.

The monthly payment you make is based on your marital status and age. Of those I know who are using this option, it has cut their costs by as much as half of their monthly health insurance premium.

However, the monthly share payments are not deductible from Federal income tax as either a medical expense (it is not a payment for insurance) or as a charitable deduction (because it is a payment for goods and services).

It may be an option worth exploring as we won’t see health care reform anytime soon.

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