Disclosure: I am not a trained medical professional nor am I professionally trained in health insurance. This post is in no way to be used as medical or insurance advice. The writings of this post are of my own personal experiences only. This post may include affiliate links.
It is amazing to think of how health insurance in the US has changed in the past 10 years. When I first graduated from college and had to find a job that offered health insurance, I was fortunate to do so and didn’t have to worry so much about the cost. I would never have thought about finding something different than insurance. But now, 10 years later, I find that I can no longer afford what is currently offered. We searched for other options and found healthcare sharing. If you are also finding yourself struggling with how things have changed, read on to learn more.
When I started my first career as an Emergency Operator and Dispatcher, I was newly engaged and paid what now seems like pennies for health insurance. A good portion of the premium was covered by the company I was working for, and even after my husband and I wed and started a family, the family coverage was still affordable in relation to my income. I think we paid around $300/mo, and the coverage was outstanding. If one of us got ill and needed to go to the doctor, we paid the co-pay of $25 and the rest was usually pretty well covered. Even our prescriptions were affordable, usually around $15 with the rest being picked up by the insurance company.
Even with bigger medical expenses the coverage was sufficient. When we had our oldest son 8 years ago, I was in the hospital for 18 hours before he was born, received an epidural, and stayed 2 full days before being discharged. Our health insurance covered the majority of the bill, and after calling the hospital billing department and asking for a paid-in-full discount, we paid around $700 out-of-pocket.
When we had our youngest 2 years ago, it was a completely different financial experience. I was in the hospital a mere 16 minutes before he was born, and had no pain meds, heck, they barely got the IV in before I pushed him out! I did stay 2 days after his birth due to him being born in the evening and being premature (36 weeks), however he didn’t need the NICU or any additional services. After insurance covered their portion and all the bills trickled in, we paid over $5,000.
My husband’s company is who we had our group plan through, and there is no longer the option of a ‘family plan’. We were essentially each on our own plan, with our own deductibles with the exception of having one huge family deductible. My husband’s company covered half of his premium ($200), but for the rest of us, we were on our own. Our deductibles were so high, $6,500 per person and $12,900 for the family, we’d have to have a major incident to reach them, and even then future bills would only be covered by 80%. The premiums for the plans offered were so expensive that we could only afford the lowest priced premium plan which was an HSA plan, however, we couldn’t afford to contribute to the HSA because of the still high cost of the premiums.
Our family’s premiums were up to $1,200/mo, and when we had to go to the doctor, we were reliable for 100% of the bill until we met our deductible. I did apply for assistance through the state we live in, but we make too much money to qualify for state assistance. However we did qualify for a tax premium discount. The kicker? Since a healthcare group plan was offered through my husband’s work, we were not allowed to take advantage of the tax premium discount, even with the company not covering any of my or our children’s monthly premiums.
With 3 kids, this past winter was very difficult with a lot of illness and several doctors visits. There were 3 months in a row where we paid over $1,000 out of pocket just on medical bills, all the while having to pay the $1,200/mo for our premiums for required health insurance coverage that didn’t actually cover anything. If one of our kids was sick and needed an antibiotic, the office visit was billed as a level 4 visit and the base cost was around $225, which we were responsible for 100% until our deductible was met.
We were needing to dig into our savings to help cover bills. We were stressed, and it showed. Our oldest recently had a dirt bike accident and needed an ER visit and stitches. It happened on a Friday, and Sunday at church a dear mom friend of mine noticed the stress. She kindly said she could see on my face how stressed I am and asked what was wrong and if she could help. I thank God for friends like this! I shared with her our family’s struggles with our health and our medical bills and health insurance costs, and she started telling me about what her family is doing instead and how she felt it would be a great fit for us.
It’s called health cost sharing. There are a few different health cost sharing options available. If you Google it, I recommend searching for ‘Healthcare Share Comparable’ and several options will come up. If you think this might be a fit for your family, please research until you find the one that seems to fit best with your family’s financial and health situations.
We chose to sign up with Christian Healthcare Ministries. We found them through our friend from church who had personal experience with them. It is not health insurance, however it is recognized by the Affordable Healthcare Act, therefore we won’t be penalized at the end of the year for not having the required health coverage. If you are interested in more information, the link to their site is here.
We chose the highest sharing level for each of us, and we now pay $450 a month for us all to participate. That’s a $9,000 per year savings for my family!
Since it is a health cost sharing ministry instead of a health insurance company, we are considered self-pay by our local healthcare providers. The benefit to this is that in the region we live in, we automatically get 20-50% off our bill, depending on what provider we go to. They all offer different discounts depending on the provider and what region you are in, so make sure to call your own billing departments and ask. With health insurance, we were paying 100% of the bill (minus a 5% pay-in-full discount offered by our healthcare provider) because we weren’t able to hit the outrageous deductible. Now we will automatically get a higher percentage off before we are even billed, and there isn’t a crazy high deductible we need to meet. For Gold members, CHM shares 100 percent of bills for any medical incident exceeding $500 as long as all other Guidelines (chministries.org/guidelines) are met. Total bills incurred per incident must exceed $500 in order to be eligible for sharing.
It’s a scary thing choosing to go without traditional health insurance. Had we not had the experiences we had this past year with so many healthcare bills and nothing being covered by our insurance provider, I don’t know that we would have felt comfortable doing so. After searching through our options and being a part of Christian Healthcare Ministries, we are thankful that we’ve found what works for us.