Because of my line of work, I'm often asked for advice by Christians who missed the deadline to sign up for a healthcare plan through the ACA exchanges, who are concerned about their ability to pay for the solution they chose, or who simply don't like the solution they chose. My answer is the same in each case—regardless of what they picked or didn't—it's not too late to change your mind.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind as you're exploring your options.
First, conventional wisdom usually isn't. In other words, just because many people continue to look to health insurance for protection doesn't mean that's the best, or only, choice. Healthcare is so complicated, and there are so many options, that it's estimated that 90% of Americans pick the wrong plan, ending up spending too much for too little protection. Many Christians don't realize that there are a world of choices outside of health insurance, like healthcare sharing ministries where people of faith band together to share each other's medical bills. So don't be afraid to try something different like a healthcare sharing ministry as long as it's clearly better for you and your family.
Second, read the fine print—not just the bullet points. Otherwise, you may find yourself in an emergency room in Georgia only to discover that your health plan only covers you in Florida. In fairness, it's very difficult to reduce a complicated healthcare plan to a few bullet points, so be sure to get all the facts about the healthcare solutions you're exploring.
Third, check the track record of the company you choose. There are many health insurance providers and healthcare sharing ministries with great track records. But the healthcare environment is always changing and there are new solutions introduced all the time. As you are exploring your options, ask for references or customer testimonials.
Fourth, provide accurate information. Some programs may require you to complete a medical history on your application. If they do, be sure to provide thorough, accurate information about pre-existing conditions, the doctors you see, and the prescriptions you take. This will help ensure that you receive proper payment of medical bills.
Fifth, the 2,000-year-old idea of bearing one another's burdens still works today. Healthcare sharing ministries like Medi-Share—where members band together to share each other's medical burdens—aren't new, they're as old as Acts 2, where the early church banded together to share and bear one another's burdens. You likely would not be reading this if you didn't take your Christian walk seriously. Just know that healthcare sharing ministries were designed from the ground up with people of faith like you in mind.
Sixth, our lives, our talents, our bodies and our families are precious gifts given to us as stewards by God. Part of our responsibility is not only to take care of our bodies but also to construct the healthcare solutions and safety nets that will be there to catch us if we get sick. And if you diligently seek, you will be in the 10% that finds the right solution for you and your family — a program that you'll love, that you can afford, and that will be there for you and your family when you need it the most.
Ted Squires is the chief executive officer of Christian Care Ministry, a not-for-profit organization based in Melbourne, Florida that operates Medi-Share, one of the leading healthcare sharing ministries in the United States. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Medi-Share's more than 375,000 members have had more than $2.4 billion of their medical bills shared and discounted since the program's inception. For more information, visitwww.medishare.com.