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- I joined Liberty HealthShare, a health sharing ministry, with my family in 2014 after becoming self-employed and losing my employer-sponsored health insurance.
- While Liberty has paid everything it should, I admit it can be slow when it comes to processing payments. Liberty is not an insurance company, rather a group of like-minded people who agree to share healthcare costs.
- Over five years, I’ve saved more than $50,000 on healthcare with Liberty HealthShare.
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When my husband and I became fully self-employed over five years ago, we had to make some big decisions about our lives and our finances. We had to find a way to save on our own for retirement since we’d lost our workplace 401(k) plans, for example. On top of that, we also had to figure out a solution to our healthcare situation. We had always had employer-sponsored health insurance at our old jobs, but that was coming to an end — and fast.
This all happened within a few years of the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare, taking shape. That was good news since it meant we could buy health insurance on our own regardless of pre-existing conditions, but unfortunately, premiums in our state (Indiana) and county were exorbitant.
In the first year we shopped for insurance on the exchanges, prices for traditional insurance plans for our family of four started at around $1,000 per month with a $12,000-plus annual deductible. And remember, that is where prices started for a Bronze plan. Getting a Silver, Gold, or Platinum plan meant prices would just go up from there.
Why we joined Liberty HealthShare
Around that time, we started researching our options and came across health sharing ministries like Liberty HealthShare. Healthcare sharing ministries are not insurance — they are groups of like-minded people who band together to share healthcare expenses. With a healthcare sharing ministry, you pay a monthly fee similar to a healthcare premium with the promise that your healthcare expenses will be covered once you meet an "unshared amount" similar to a health insurance deductible. Healthcare ministries are also Christian by nature, which was fine by us.
After some digging, we ultimately went with Liberty HealthShare. We thought Liberty had the least restrictive rules regarding religious participation, especially since at least one other sharing ministry requires you to have a letter from your church pastor. You don’t have to go to church to join Liberty HealthShare, but you do have to agree to a general "statement of beliefs" that implies a certain level of commitment to God.
The benefits of Liberty HealthShare as we saw them included:
- A low monthly sharing amount, similar to a premium (was $449 for our family when we joined, but is now $499 per month)
- Low annual unshared amount, or out-of-pocket contribution (used to be $1,500 for a family, but is now $2,250)
- Eligible medical bills up to $1,000,000 per incident can be shared
If we joined Liberty HealthShare, we could save over $500 per month and face considerably lower out-of-pocket costs if we met our annual out-of-pocket sharing maximum. So, after some planning and careful consideration, that’s what we did.
It’s been more than five years since we joined Liberty and I am mostly pleased with how things have gone so far. Prices have gone up slightly over the five years we’ve been in the program (as noted above), but that’s pretty par for the course when it comes to healthcare.
Here are a few of my thoughts on what has gone well — and not so well
We made two major claims through Liberty HealthShare and both were ultimately paid
One of the big concerns people have with healthcare sharing ministries is that they won’t ultimately pay healthcare bills as they pop up. I’m happy to report that we’ve had a few major claims over the years (one for $10,000-plus and another for over $30,000 when my daughter broke her arm) and both were ultimately paid in full once I paid my annual unshared amount.
To get those bills paid, Liberty gives the option to either pay them up front and get reimbursed or have your provider send the bills directly to Liberty for payment. You’re not limited by a network, either, and can see any provider of your choosing.
Liberty can be slow to pay bills
Now for the bad news. Liberty can be slow to pay bills. From the time my daughter broke her arm in July of 2018, it took a full seven months to get all the hospital and surgeon bills paid. This is partly because it took so long for providers to mail the bills to begin with, but I still say Liberty dragged its feet a little bit.
There are also a number of treatments and services Liberty won’t cover, including abortion, contraceptives, treatment and surgery for transgender individuals, dental and eye care, mental health services, infertility, and treatment for alcohol/drug addiction, among other things, which is worth noting for anyone thinking of signing up.
I am sad we can no longer use a Health Savings Account
One major downside of belonging to a healthcare sharing ministry is that we can no longer contribute to our Health Savings Account, or HSA. This type of account is amazing because it lets you save for healthcare expenses on a pre-tax basis (up to certain limits), and your money grows tax-free. You have to have a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan to use an HSA, though, so we can no longer contribute money to our account.
We have easily saved over $50,000
On the upside, we have easily saved over $50,000 on healthcare expenses over the five years we have belonged to Liberty HealthShare. I say that because we have saved a minimum of $500 per month, which works out to $6,000 per year or $30,000 over five years. We also saved a minimum of $10,000 both years we had a major claim since our ACA deductible would have been at least $10,000 more than our out-of-pocket maximum with Liberty HealthShare.
While using a health sharing ministry isn’t entirely ideal, I definitely believe the $50,000-plus in savings we’ve accrued over the years has been well worth the hassle.
If you find yourself in a similar situation without health insurance through an employer, I would suggest considering a sharing option. Healthcare sharing ministries are far from perfect, but they can make sense if you’re in the same boat we’re in.
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