As I travel around the country to various district events and conferences and talk with our pastors and church leadership, I often get questions regarding many of the “medical sharing” plans or ministries offered as an alternative to medical insurance. These have understandably gained in popularity since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While these do offer a level of care that is preferable to going without insurance all together, and they align with our Biblical world view on the sanctity of life, there are some significant differences between the Alliance Health Plan and most of the common healthcare sharing ministries. Besides the fact that medical sharing plans are individual plans (not group coverage), I wanted to highlight some key differences between the two approaches to medical coverage and why we offer the healthcare plan that we do.
- The Alliance Health Plan has an extensive list of preventative services that are covered at 100% with no out-of-pocket cost. These can be found on the Alliance Benefits website by clicking here. This list is more generous than most traditional health plans by covering many asthma and diabetes medications. Most health care sharing ministries don’t cover preventative care at all or have a minimum dollar amount before they cover a claim.
- Speaking of claims, we support our members throughout the claims process to make sure that they are handled correctly, billed properly, and processed timely. At a health care sharing plan, you are typically on your own in the claims process and dealing directly with a provider in the case of any dispute or misunderstanding on a bill.
- With insurance, your medical premiums and Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions are typically pre-tax and HSA-eligible expenses are tax-free. The purchase of shares within a sharing plan, however, are not tax-deductible.
- The Alliance Health Plan also has very reasonable safeguards in place to limit costs for its members. Once an individual reaches the out-of-pocket maximum of $6,300 in a calendar year, the plan covers in full the remainder of in-network eligible expenses for the rest of that year. Alternatively, many medical sharing plans will limit the amount they will pay on individuals and leave that person with significant financial responsibility should they have a catastrophic medical need. Our plan has no such cap and we have a policy in place to protect the plan and pay those catastrophic claims.
- Finally, one of the most significant differences in the two programs is our treatment of pre-existing conditions. Medical sharing plans are not welcoming to any existing illnesses, injuries, or conditions for sharing of those expenses. Many will not accept that individual at all, though some may and just not cover expenses related to that condition. At the Alliance, we have members that may join our plan with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, heart disease, etc. A recent study showed that 27 percent of adults 18-64 have a medical pre-existing condition. We want to take care of our Alliance family and we are committed to doing so for all members that enter into our plan.
If your group has not joined us, or if you are a church or district that used to be on the Alliance Health Plan but currently have a different health insurance solution, we hope you will look at the Alliance Plan as we head into 2019. Our Alliance Benefits team would be happy to do a full benefits comparison to your current plan or any plan you are considering. We look forward to the chance to serve you in the coming year!
Curtis joined as Director of Alliance Benefits in September of 2017. He is responsible for the overall administration and direction of all aspects of Alliance Benefits, including the health and retirement plans for Alliance workers in the United States and internationally. His desire is to serve our districts and churches in helping to care for our pastors and staff.