Medi-Share: The Christian Health Care Sharing Collective

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Compared to traditional private health insurance, it’s a bargain: Family plans start at just $109 a month. But Jews, Muslims, atheists, and cancer patients need not apply.

A WalletPop post explains how the program works, including what’s not covered:

You can forget medical care for unwed pregnancies or any other problems that stem from having sex outside a traditional Christian marriage. They also won’t cover birth control, abortions, or medical problems stemming from lifestyle choices that run contrary to Christian values. Members are not permitted to smoke or abuse drugs, including alcohol. Participation in activities with willful disregard for personal safety will get you booted from the plan. Some with chronic health problems may be accepted, but only if they agree to work with a “health” coach. Ditto for the obese — you know, gluttony and all. And perhaps the biggest requirements are that you are a regular church-goer (as verified by your minister) and sign a statement of faith accepting Jesus Christ as your savior.

The group negotiates doctors’ fees, and members are responsible for co-pays, but this is not the same as insurance as most people know it:

Members with a medical need may go to any doctor of their choosing and show their Medi-Share card. The doctor submits the bill to Medi-Share, which negotiates the cost with the doctor and sends out those monthly notices. Doctors cost less if members stick to those listed in the PPO network, but they remain free to see whoever they want. Members also are responsible for a $35 co-pay for office visits and $135 co-pays for hospital stays.

Many procedures require pre-authorization and Medi-Share’s web site is replete with reminders that this is not insurance and neither the group or its members are financially responsible for anyone’s medical bills. If a member’s claim is denied, he may take it to a member-staffed appeals board. But since these collectives aren’t insurance companies, they aren’t regulated by states. A complaint ends with the appeals board.