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Health Care Sharing Ministries: An Uncommon Bond

December 31, 2015
By Scott E. Daniels

The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate contains an exception for health care sharing ministries. Since the passage of the ACA in 2009, these ministries have seen enrollment increase.

stethoscope and insurance docs

The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate contains an exception for health care sharing ministries. Since the passage of the ACA in 2009, these ministries have seen enrollment increase. From the abstract:

Health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) occupy a unique and growing space in the health care market two years after the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (ACA). HCSMs are national ministries that are alternatives to health care insurance. They avoid operations central to the business of insurance, involving the guarantee for payment of medical bills, assumption and distribution of health risk, and employment of actuarial methods. The ACA explicitly exempts HCSM members from the penalties imposed under the law’s shared responsibility provisions. HCSM members are devoutly Christian. The sharing of medical bills is an expression of the biblical admonition “to bear one another’s burdens,” directly, member-to-member. This mission makes the bond of mutual aid and communal reliance uncommon compared with the secular social contract theory undergirding the ACA.

The members of the three largest HCSMs reviewed in this report do not live separate lives from the society at large, but work, play, pay taxes and raise their families in the society at large. Eligibility rules require a profession of genuine biblical faith, commitment to traditional religion, marriage, and the practice of moral and healthy lifestyles. The ministries do not offer comprehensive benefits; wellness is an expected objective under the control of individuals and families. The membership burden is affordable. The savings will vary depending on the specific sharing ministry. Overall, the savings can range from 45 percent to 60 percent below the cost of health insurance sold in the individual market, depending on the ministry plan selected. This translates into hundreds of dollars each month in the family budget and thousands each year. These monies can be redirected toward meeting the many other demands on the family pocketbook.