With healthcare costs on the rise and personal religious freedom at stake, more people of faith are exploring alternatives to traditional health insurance. In researching their options, a growing number of Christians are taking a closer look at faith-based health sharing as a viable choice for their healthcare needs.


If you’re one of millions of Americans searching for more affordable healthcare, understanding the key differences between traditional health insurance and faith-based health sharing can help you make a more informed and confident decision.  


Health Sharing Is Subject to ACA Mandates 

Health sharing programs — often called Christian health sharing, Christian health share ministries, or faith-based health share — are non-profit organizations that operate outside of traditional health insurance. With faith-based health sharing programs, participants voluntarily share the costs of medical expenses across all members. This cost-sharing model is guided by the faith-based principle that people with similar beliefs and values come together to share each other’s healthcare costs. 


Difference in Terminology 

Christian health sharing additionally uses different terminology than you find with traditional health plans. For example, instead of deductibles, health sharing programs refer to it as personal responsibility or Annual Member Care Share. Premiums in traditional health plans become monthly shares with Christian health share programs, and copays are called provider consult fees. A claim is referred to as an eligible event, incident, or illness with faith-based health sharing. And in place of Explanation of Benefits, you’ll receive an Explanation of Share with Christian health sharing programs. 


Enrollment Periods 

Another key difference between traditional health plans and Christian health sharing is when you can sign up. While traditional ACA plans require you to enroll during specific and limited Open Enrollment window, faith-based health share programs allow you to sign up any time of the year. Many individuals appreciate this flexibility. 


Lower Costs with Health Sharing 

Because Christian health share programs are not health insurance plans, they are not subjected to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that can often make traditional health insurance more expensive 

In fact, members of faith-based health sharing programs can save potentially hundreds of dollars every month, compared to those with traditional health insurance. Families who become members of health sharing programs have seen savings between $300 to $500 a month, while the average unsubsidized cost of traditional family health insurance costs $1,564 a month1. This makes Christian health sharing an attractive option for individuals and families who do not have employer coverage or who do not qualify for government subsidies to help cover their monthly premiums. 

What’s more, members of faith-based healthcare sharing programs often see lower out-of-pocket expenses than individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans. These savings are driven in part by Christian health sharing’s innovative approach to whole-person care that includes easily accessible and cost-effective telehealth services, preventative care, and mental health support. 


What’s Covered 

Faith-based health sharing plans cover many of the typical medical expenses that traditional health insurance covers, including some pre-existing conditions. Some Christian health share plans also share costs across members for prescription medications to help keep those costs low as well. 

However, unlike traditional health plans, faith-based health sharing programs ask for their members to agree to adopt healthy lifestyles based on Biblical principles, and eliminate harmful behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco and drug use. This encourages healthier living which can in turn help keep members’ medical costs low. 


Provider Network 

The freedom to choose their preferred provider is a top priority for many people when researching health insurance plans. Christian health sharing meets that demand as well, with many programs offering a large nationwide network of providers and hospitals who welcome health sharing members. That means with health sharing you won’t have to sacrifice provider choice for lower monthly costs. 


Membership Requirements 

Faith-based health sharing programs also differ from traditional health insurance plans in the simple fact that they are designed for Christians. To become a member of a Christian health sharing plan, members agree to be part of a supportive community of people who share a similar faith, beliefs and values and who place a priority on religious freedoms. 

As you consider the difference between traditional health insurance plans and faith-based health sharing, it’s important to look at the differences between individual Christian health sharing programs as well. Health share programs will often vary in what they cover, costs for doctors’ visits and prescription medication, requirements for membership, emergency coverage, and the size of their provider networks. Be sure that the Christian health share program you choose meets your and your families’ needs, while also lowering your costs.  


Learn more about faith-based health sharing programs and how to find the right one for you.  


    1. https://www.kitces.com/blog/healthcare-sharing-program-review-chm-medicare-lhs-samaritan-health-share-plans/