Christian Care Ministry takes a unique approach to tackling individual and family health care expenses -- one that has created some controversy in states like Kentucky. Available exclusively to Christians, the organization is more of a collective support system than a traditional health care company.
Of particular note, the group's Medi-Share program allows participants to assist one another by sharing medical bills. On its web site, Christian Care makes it clear, though, that the program is "not insurance."
While individuals can count on definitive action on behalf of insurance companies to pay their bills, the organization offers health care coverage in what it describes as a "non-guaranteed basis."
Photo Credit: AP
"Health insurance comes with a contractual guarantee to pay your medical bills," the group's web site reads. "For over 19 years our members have been faithfully sharing medical bills on a non-guaranteed basis, trusting the Lord to provide in their time of need through the voluntary gifts of other like-minded Christians."
Christian Care ministries describes how the system works in detail:
Medi-Share brings believers together to share each other’s healthcare costs. It’s a modern-day version of what the church started back in the book of Acts.
Find which program option is best for you. There are seven options to choose from, one to fit every budget. Find your monthly share amount for each option here.
Each month, your share is matched with another’s eligible medical bills. Christian Care Ministry facilitates the direct sharing of medical costs between members and provides you with a secure online way to see who you are sharing with so you can pray for and encourage them.
So, Medi-Share members essentially pay monthly fees based on the number of individuals (one person versus a family) they are seeking to enroll in the program. Like traditional insurance, the greater number of people, the more expensive the monthly fees will be.
Then, those enrolled in the Christian Care coverage receive benefits based on the outline presented on the group's web site. Here's a look at how an individual participating in the program would be billed:
Photo Credit: Christian Care Ministry
In a recent interview with HuffPo Live, Robert Baldwin, national policy director with the program, explained its purpose in detail.
"It's a program that's existed since 1993 and really what it does is it strives to bring together like-minded people in a program that allows them to share their resources with one another in those times of financial challenge," he said.
Baldwin described the effort as working like a co-op. While one is paying insurance premiums to a company in exchange for an obligation that they cover medical bills, as noted, this is different.
"We're an organization that brings people together -- very different than insurance because there aren't any guarantees," Baldwin said. "For the last 20 years, we have facilitated the sharing of close to half a billion dollars...of medical bills and so it's a program that works."
While he claims that it functions well, the Medi-Share staffer admits, "It's probably not for everyone."
Watch Baldwin describe the program, below:
According to Baldwin, the insurance co-op system has an exemption from insurance laws in a large portion of U.S. states. Additionally, it has an exemption from the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). But, as the organization's past battle with Kentucky shows, some states may not be willing to allow the company to operate within their borders.
A Kentucky judge blocked Medi-Share back in Oct. 2011, claiming that it doesn't comply with insurance regulations. At the center of the 10-year battle was the notion that some Christians buying into the plan may have mistakenly believed that they were purchasing insurance that would bring them hospitalization coverage.
So, Kentucky banned the program, leaving 800 people who were enrolled at the time without insurance.
While some may have qualms with the fact that it's a Christians-only opportunity, Baldwin explained that some exemptions actually required such a designation. Learn more about Medi-Share here.
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