Health sharing ministries are non-profit membership-based organizations that share medical expenses. The majority of these are Christian in origin and focus on biblical principles.
The resulting shared costs are often much lower than insurance premiums. The rules of the ministry also typically prohibit coverage for procedures that go against biblical beliefs.
A primary reason for the growth of health sharing ministries is that they are usually much more cost-effective than traditional health insurance. While this may vary by ministry, members can typically expect to save up to 50% each month compared to their health insurance premium.
Although not regulated like insurance companies, these organizations do have to meet a certain standard of financial responsibility. To ensure they have enough funds to cover medical expenses, they must publish their audited financial statement each year, which includes total current assets or unrestricted net assets.
Depending on the plan, these funds are shared amongst the community using automated account transfers or directly between members who need assistance paying their medical bills. These sharing amounts are often fixed, but they may rise over time as the organization grows. Nevertheless, these plans are often less expensive than many ACA-compliant health insurance options. They also do not exclude pre-existing conditions, and many offer a network of providers that share their same beliefs.
Health sharing ministries are rooted in faith-based communities and share the Biblical principle of “Bear one another’s burdens.” As such, they are often less expensive than traditional insurance.
They also allow members to choose doctors and hospitals that align with their beliefs and are not influenced by the financial interests of large medical corporations or shareholders. This is especially important for people with serious or complex needs.
Finally, HCSMs can be much more affordable than a traditional health insurance plan because they don’t require copays, deductibles or other fees. This is a big reason they are growing in popularity.
While the lower costs are an attractive feature, many who have joined a healthcare sharing ministry say it is the sense of community that keeps them happy. Members encourage each other through personal notes and prayer and have a spiritual support system they can lean on when the going gets tough. And that’s what a lot of Americans need right now.
3. Sense of belonging
A sense of belonging is an important part of a person’s overall health. People with strong connections to their communities are more likely to exercise, eat well, drink moderately and follow their doctors’ advice. They’re also less stressed, which can help them avoid health issues and even lower their chances of needing medical care in the first place.
Healthcare sharing ministries (also called private healthcare sharing plans) are faith-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit organizations that allow members to share in each other’s eligible medical expenses. These programs don’t require premiums, deductibles or other forms of payment, and they can be joined at any time without waiting for open enrollment or a qualifying event.
UHSM / WeShare conforms to the federal government’s statutory definition of a health care sharing ministry and is audited annually by an independent auditor. USHM also follows a set of biblical principles that ensures the safety of its members.
While the cost savings are an attractive enticement to join a health sharing ministry, many members say that it is the sense of community they enjoy most. Members write encouraging notes to each other and pray for one another, fostering the Biblical notion that we should bear each other’s burdens.
While Mennonites and Anabaptists have long shared healthcare costs within their own communities, broader-based HCSMs have recently sprung up. Some, like Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), accept members from all denominations and communions. Others, such as Medi-Share, limit membership to those who live according to specific Bible principles and abide by the ministry’s guidelines.
The popularity of HCSMs has grown since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when most Americans were required to have health insurance or pay a penalty (the fine was repealed in 2021). The ACA also made it possible for people to join these ministries as a way to comply with the mandate, and this has contributed to their growth.