May 9, 2014

Health Coverage Options for Catholics (An Open Letter)

"Hi, Donnie!  A young woman asked me to advise her about taking health insurance from a provider that funds abortions. She says she has to do this under state law...  I told her that she had options... She asked me for them... How can she get insurance from a company that does not go along with abortion coverage, etc.?  Thanks!...God bless!"

Dear [Friend],

May the Lord give you His peace! Thank you for sharing with me the concern of the young woman you know about her health insurance covering abortions. I followed this issue very closely after the USCCB gave a primer a couple of years ago about the way in which these abortions would be funded and this is the bad news that has been like a thorn irritating our consciences.

The good news is that there are a few good options out there, as you suggested to her. There are a total of three Christian alternatives to health insurance, called health sharing ministries, whose members are exempt from the individual insurance mandate. Also, for Catholic organizations and Catholic business owners, there is still the option to obtain insurance, along with the Little Sisters of the Poor, from an insurance company run by the Christian Brothers, as long as their battle in court does not fail. This might be the best option for your friend if she works for someone who is Catholic. Otherwise, one of the three health-sharing ministries might work for her:

1) For an individual who is looking for an alternative to insurance that functions just like insurance, Medishare would be the best option, because when you sign up you are given a card that functions just like an insurance card when you present it to your medical provider.

2) For an individual who is looking for the least expensive health coverage option, I would invite them to join CHM, Christian Healthcare Ministries, of which I have been a member for over a year. It is less expensive than Medishare or insurance because I do not have to pay the ministry to negotiate with my healthcare provider to arrange the payment, but rather, I present myself as if I
were a self-pay patient, explaining that I have "something better than insurance," in which my medical bills are shared by thousands of other Christians. As a self-pay patient, I am still entitled to ask for the same discount that they give to the insurance companies, which is usually around 60%. This little bit of effort on my part is the key to keeping costs low for the ministry. Within the ministry, there are three different levels of coverage, the highest of which, for $150/month, covers most medical expenses.  I chose the lowest level of participation, at $45/ month, in which I will be responsible for the first $5,000 (you might call this a deductible) of medical bills from an illness or injury that requires hospitalization, while the rest of these bills are paid by the ministry, up to a certain capped amount. However, even at this level, I was able to join a program within the ministry called Brother's keeper, in which "catastrophic" medical bills above the usual limit are shared among the other members who opt-in to this program. To opt-in to this program costs $40/ yr, and these costs are shared quarterly. Because of the rapid growth of this program, my brother's keeper bill has been very low, around $12/quarter. Also, my most recent $45 monthly bill was waived, because someone else who signed up said that I was the one who referred them to the ministry, and so I got a month free.

3) The third option is called Samaritain: 
*Important Updates: There is now a Catholic version of Samaritain with a group called Christ Medicus There is also a Catholic Ministry just rolled out called Solidarity Healthshare

For someone considering one of the health-sharing ministries, I would encourage them to compare all of the essential details in this handy chart:

Certainly this is good news, and woe to me if I do not share it. I do hope that this is helpful, and that it is more widely shared. I will pray for your friend. Please continue to pray for me.

In Christ,

Donnie Schenck
(513) 849-oo22
CHM Member # 156332