(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)
Christian healthcare sharing programs, which are exempt from the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare," have seen a spike in growth in the last few years as the new healthcare law is being implemented.
Medi-Share has grown by about 20 percent per year for the last several years, Andrea Miller, M.D., told The Christian Post in a Friday interview, and currently has over 62,000 members. Miller is medical director and vice president of sharing for Christian Care Ministry, which administers Medi-Share, one of the three largest healthcare sharing programs in the United States, along with Christian Healthcare Ministries and Samaritan Ministries.
When the ACA was being written, Miller explained, the three groups asked members of Congress to place an exemption for them in the law so they would be able to continue to operate. Since healthcare sharing programs are not insurance, their members would have been required to buy health insurance if the exemption had not been place in the law.
Miller does not have any data on why more people are signing up for medical sharing programs, but she agreed it likely has to do with a combination of ethical concerns with the ACA, such as funding for abortifacient drugs, the rising costs of health insurance and general confusion caused by ACA implementation, and people who are disgruntled with the ACA and wish to make a political statement by avoiding the law altogether.
Medi-Share is significantly cheaper than most health insurance programs. The average Medi-Share family contributes less than $300 per month.
Participants contribute to their Medi-Share account each month. When members have healthcare needs, money from that account can go to pay for those needs. The members must agree to a faith statement and agree to live according to certain lifestyle guidelines. They agree, for instance, to not have sex outside of marriage, not abuse alcohol or drugs, and not smoke.
The members decide which medical procedures will be eligible. Unlike insurance, there is no guarantee that healthcare needs will be paid for. Miller said, though, that in the 20 years the company has been around, there has been no eligible healthcare need that has not been paid for.
Medi-Share, Miller said, is "for Christians who want to be as healthy as they can be so they can do the work the Lord has for them to do." And, members understand that their participation entails both rights and responsibilities, including the "responsibility to treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit."
If anyone wants to create their own medical sharing program as an alternative to the ACA, they would be out of luck. Under current law, the company has to have been in existence before 1999 to receive the ACA exemption.