Choosing a Healthcare Sharing Program: An Insider’s Perspective
Since 2010, there have been approximately 28 new Healthcare Sharing start-ups. As of 2021, the market has grown to more than 600,000 households and 2 million members. However, Consumers need to understand that not all Healthcare Sharing Organizations (HCSOs) are created equal!
In 2010, there were more than 100 HCSOs in existence, yet the Healthcare Sharing Industry was still extremely small in terms of overall participation. Most HCSOs were small Mennonite Churches that served less than 10,000 Mennonite households (HHs) in total. At the time there were only three HCSOs that served the broader, non-Mennonite Christian market that were of meaningful size: Christian Healthcare Ministries, Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries - who served approximately 40,000 households combined.
Then came the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which included a mandate that everyone purchase insurance, but also included an “exemption” to the mandate for consumers who belonged to a qualified HCSO. This exemption would ultimately serve as the catalyst for Healthcare Sharing’s rapid growth. As ACA plans began to hit the market in 2013, consumers quickly learned that those plans would NOT be affordable for most households. Consumers found themselves faced with three options: 1) purchase an unaffordable insurance plan, 2) pay an IRS penalty for not complying with the mandate to purchase insurance, or 3) find an alternative to (1) and (2). With HCSO’s exemption from the insurance mandate, naturally, consumers began to turn to them as an affordable, legal alternative to health insurance.
As demand grew, the market has responded, and approximately 28 new Healthcare Sharing start-ups (HCSOs) have been established. These new HCSOs have joined the ranks of Chistian Healthcare Ministries, Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries in serving the broader (non-Mennonite) market. As of late 2021, those participating in a Healthcare Sharing Program has now grown to more than 600,000 HHs and 2 million members.
However, consumers need to understand that not all HCSOs are created equal! In recent months the industry was hit hard by the bankruptcy of one HCSO and accusations of self-dealing and corruption at others. For the most part, Healthcare Sharing has a strong history of being a credible option to the high cost of insurance. However, it appears that the Industry’s growth and the desperate need for affordable healthcare has attracted new entrants (HCSOs) that might be short on experience and, in a few cases, are “bad actors.”
So, Robert and I felt that it was important that we use our industry experience to provide consumers with a thoughtful guide to choosing a Healthcare Sharing Program. Together, we have over 30 combined years of Executive-level HCS experience. We have each led the operations of one of the Nation’s largest and most successful HCSOs and we continue to serve the Industry through Sharable. So, over the coming weeks we will share with you a 4-part series of posts to better equip consumers with the most meaningful questions for choosing a Healthcare Sharing Program.
PART 1 – AFFORDABILITY
In this post we intend to help consumers understand “why” Healthcare Sharing costs 50% - 70% less than insurance. In doing so, we will explain the most important differences between Healthcare Sharing and insurance. More importantly, we want to assist consumers in assessing the costs, affordability, and convenience of a Healthcare Sharing Program in relation to their specific household needs.
PART 2 – CREDIBILITY
In this post we will explain how best to assess the credibility of a HCSO in terms of its governance model and operational design. Consumers will be equipped with questions and waypoints for assessing the strength and independence of a HCSO’s governance model, as well as identify the cautions and potential for fraud, self-dealing, and other inappropriate “not-for-profit” business practices.
PART 3 – RELIABILITY
In this post we will define the key business practices and sharing protocols that are necessary for building and sustaining a high-performing Sharing Program that doesn’t operate like an insurance company in either form or function. Consumers will be better equipped to look for sharing practices and protocols that strengthen the fiscal soundness and reliability of a HCSO, as well as ensuring the prompt publishing, sharing and payment of their medical bills.
PART 4 - VISIBILITY
In this post we will describe the level of visibility and transparency that a member (consumer) should have in the financial operations of a credible HCSO. We will enable consumers to recognize the appropriate “Use of Funds” throughout the sharing process, as well as assess if member contributions are being shared to their greatest use.
To accompany this series of posts, we have prepared a DECISION GUIDE: Choosing a Healthcare Sharing Program. An Insider’s Perspective. In it, you will find questions and prompts that will help you evaluate if Healthcare Sharing is right for you, as well as assess a specific HCSO and its programs. We want to help consumers make the best choice for their families.
As the cost of health insurance continues to climb, we expect that more and more consumers will turn to Healthcare Sharing as a more affordable means to meet their healthcare needs. We can also expect that this growth will continue to attract new market entrants and start-ups desiring to serve this market. Unfortunately, not all HCSOs are created equal. So now, more than ever, consumers need a meaningful way to discern the strength and credibility of one HCSO from another.
DISCLOSURE: Sharable, LLC is a technology and services company that serves the Healthcare Sharing Industry. The Sharable team has more than 100 years’ experience in building and managing high-performing Healthcare Sharing Programs. Our mission is to advance the adoption of Healthcare Sharing as an affordable option to health insurance. Sharable does not endorse specific Healthcare Sharing Organizations or their Programs.