Religious Healthcare Ministries are Cheaper and Riskier

The fluid health insurance landscape, with periodic threats from Capitol Hill and the White House, has pushed a number of Americans to healthcare sharing when it comes to paying for medical expenses. The Healthcare Sharing Ministries has enjoyed a ratcheting up of their enrollment numbers. Approximately 160,000 people enrolled in 2014, when the scheme was first rolled out. Now, in 2018, about one million people have joined these schemes.

Cheaper but riskier

The Healthcare Sharing Ministries carry a lot of risks. Unlike employer-provided insurance or service provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these ministries offer no solvency guarantees. They have the power to reject any kind of claims which the standard insurance companies will be forced to accept as per law. The government has no oversight on the workings of such organizations. According to Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University, although healthy people could find sharing schemes to be a much cheaper option, the programs provided give scant health cover. They also contribute to the weakening of insurance markets. Corlette, who works in Center for Health Care Reform under the aegis of the university, points out that healthy people prefer this kind of alternative products, leaving the government mandated insurers a sicker pool to get their premiums from. The whole universe in this case is a negative one.

There is no need for such ministries to be financially solvent. They are not required to keep any kind of reserve funds. They are also not mandatorily needed to accept any applicant. People with pre-existing ailments can be rejected.

Old scheme in new bottle

Health Care Sharing Ministries are not a new concept. These organizations are more than a century old. Even in the 19th century, Amish and Mennonite communities across the United States pooled money to lighten the load of medical expenses during trying times. The advent of the 1990s saw the bigger ministries distributing themselves to a number of other Christian communities, providing services on the same principles.

The ACA implementation has resulted in a boom for such sharing ministries. The principal push is provided by people who are angry at the north-going health insurance premiums and the individual mandate. The sharing alliance represents three biggest such American organizations. About 80 percent of individuals signed up for such schemes benefit from such ministries. People normally applies the most in December and also in January- after the normal health insurance for open enrollment closes.

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