New Paper Examines Health Care Sharing Ministries as Alternative to Conventional Health Care

Genevieve Plaster  

Lozier Institute Provides Fresh Analysis on Benefits, Pitfalls for Conscientious Consumers


WASHINGTON, D.C.
Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education arm of Susan B. Anthony List, today released a landmark review of health care sharing ministries (HCSMs). These ministries, which date back decades as a source of health care financing for both individuals and families, have experienced new prominence as an alternative to conventional health insurance.

 

Scott Daniels, Ph.D., author of the paper, entitled “Health Care Sharing Ministries: An Uncommon Bond,” is a veteran senior health official in three federal administrations and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 

“The surge in popularity of these health care sharing ministries has coincided with Obamacare,” said Chuck Donovan, President of the Institute (CLI).  “Growth is attributed to the ACA’s infringement on the conscience of individuals and families, its inflated costs, and the opportunities that HCSMs afford for genuine expressions of mutual aid,” Donovan observed. “CLI is pleased to provide conscientious consumers with this first-of-its-kind analysis of the benefits of these ministries, as well as the cautions families and individuals should consider. Altogether, HCSMs appear to offer a cost-effective, conscience-sensitive, and solidarity-building alternative to what has become an expensive marketplace for health insurance under the ACA and prior laws.”

 

Among the findings in Daniels’ 38-page report, available here:

 

  • HCSMs are growing rapidly and their rate of growth has accelerated markedly since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010.  The largest of the HCSMs, Samaritan Ministries International (SMI), has had membership growth of 200% over the past decade, with the largest growth happening since the imposition of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in 2013.
  • The savings can range from 45 percent to 60 percent below the cost of health insurance sold in the individual market.  The average monthly cost to participate in an HCSM (compared to Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance, or ESHI) can be 50% (or more) lower than the premium and cost-sharing of comparable, conventional health insurance.
  • HCSMs have proven able to handle very large medical expenses, and complaints filed by HCSM members have been very few and far between.  HCSMs rely in part on the willingness and ability of members to negotiate cost-of-service reductions with providers.
  • HCSMs do not generally cover pre-existing conditions, but most have developed procedures to handle exceptions through voluntary contributions over and above the usual sharing amounts established by the HCSM.  Christian Healthcare Ministries is an exception and does provide a means to address pre-existing coverage needs over a multi-year period.

The three leading HCSMs – Samaritan Ministries International, Christian Care Ministry (Medi-Share), and Christian Healthcare Ministries — shared a combined $253 million in health care expenses in 2015. The total lives covered by HCSMs increased sharply to over 300,000 people by early 2015.  Further increases will likely occur this year.

 

Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List.  CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.

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