Christian Cost Sharing is Better

Christian Cost SharingY’all, I’m not even sure how long it’s been since my last post but it has been a LONG time.  I’ve been SO busy with a toddler, renovating our house, and managing a vacation rental that I bumped this blog down my priority list.  So the fact that I am posting this should tell you JUST HOW EXCITED I really am.  About what, you ask??  Christian cost sharing, aka INSURANCE, believe it or not.

If you are frustrated with your current insurance for ANY reason, read on for my Christian Healthcare Ministries review and explanation of Christian cost sharing.  Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

The Backstory

In 2015 I delivered my first kiddo (yep, that chunker in the picture) and decided to stay home to raise him.  As a result, I lost my insurance coverage with my employer and found myself looking for a new plan.  We could have enrolled under my husband’s PPO plan offered through his employer but, while it’s free for him to be on it, it would cost $750 per month to cover my son and I.  Not to mention the $3,000 per person deductible on top of that should we actually need to USE the insurance.  That just wasn’t going to work for us so I checked out plans on the individual market and found something moderately better.  For the remainder of 2015 and most of 2016 my son and I were covered under an EPO plan offered through the individual market.  It worked out fine for us but we still paid over $500 a month and the network of doctors was EXTREMELY small and the plan offered ZERO out-of-network coverage.  Had we actually needed to use the plan for more than routine care, I’m not sure my report would be the same.

Coming into 2017 I knew we needed something better.  We wanted to get pregnant and would be using our insurance quite a bit because of that.  Thankfully, I had heard about various Christian insurance cost sharing organizations through some friends and finally dove into to learn more about this option.

What is Christian Cost Sharing?

There are numerous Christian cost sharing non-profits to choose from, and as far as I can tell, they all operate fairly similarly.  The basic premise is that the consumer (you and me) are responsible for negotiating the most competitive price for our healthcare services as we can and we are also responsible for paying the cost out-of-pocket (or through payment programs offered through the doctor, hospital, or even a credit card).  We can choose any doctor we want as there is generally not in-network vs out-of-network doctors.  After receiving and paying for care, we then submit our expenses to the cost sharing company and wait for reimbursement of eligible expenses.  Surprisingly, most doctors and hospitals offer SIGNIFICANT discounts to cash-pay customers, which is what you will be considered.  Each non-profit structures their programs slightly different which offers a lot of freedom and choice for consumers.

Wondering why this system is better?  Skip to my explanation here.

My Experience with Christian Healthcare Ministries

Towards the end of 2016 I Googled Christian cost sharing insurance and I read through the programs offered by several different non-profits. Ultimately, I decided to go with Christian Healthcare Ministries and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

Last night, on our way out to dinner, I ran to the mailbox and picked up today’s mail. I expected the usual junk-mail but instead I found over $3,000 of reimbursement checks from Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM)!  These were the checks associated with our first claims submitted so I was extremely excited to see the process come full circle and I want to share ALL the details of the program we are on and why I think it is 100x better than traditional insurance options.

Since signing up with CHM we have had two major medical incidents.  The first was with my 2-yr old son, Caleb, when he cut his lip really deep and needed stitches at 9:30 at night.  That required a trip to the ER since he needed a topical numbing cream to get the stitches and your typical minor emergency clinic can’t use anesthesia and just wasn’t comfortable with a munchkin that young.  The cost for those 5 stitches came to a grand total of $2,387 originally ($1,227 to the hospital facility, $1,085 to the actual doctors who work at the facility and apparently are their own independent group, and then $75 to our pediatrician to remove the stitches).  Thankfully, since $2,387 for 5 stitches is completely crazy, I was able to easily negotiate a lower price if we paid in cash and paid promptly.  In total, we paid only $1,102.52 for this incident.  This incident qualified for reimbursement from CHM because it was over $500 (click here to jump to more about the ins and outs of how CHM’s program works).

When the first round of pre-negotiated bills came in, I first called up each company and requested a lower rate since I was cash-pay.  Two out of the three bills were significantly lowered and re-sent out to me.

**Let me clarify that I am NOT a good negotiator, I just called, said I was cash-pay and asked if they offered a lower rate.  That’s generally all it takes.**

Then, I paid those bills out-of-pocket and moved on to the reimbursement process with CHM.  I filled out a total of 5 forms, 1 page each, and uploaded the forms and copies of our bills onto CHM’s website. Even though it was my first go around, the instructions were clear, the process was simple, and it only took me about an hour.  (Okay, I did call the office and double check I was doing everything correctly.  The call was quick to be connected and the AMERICAN person that I spoke to was fully knowledgeable and able to easily help me.)  From there, we waited for reimbursement.  That was February 24 and CHM’s stated turn-around time is 6 months. Today is July 3rd and we just received our checks in the mail so that is just over 4 months between payment and reimbursement.

The second “incident” is just my pre-natal care for my pregnancy.  The great thing about CHM’s Gold Program is that even though I haven’t had the baby yet and I haven’t received all of my pre-natal care, CHM allows you to submit a copy of your contract with your OBGYN (or midwife in my case) and get that reimbursement clock rolling now instead of after the baby arrives.  The process was essentially the same as described above: We “negotiated” a cash-pay price, filled out the forms, submitted them few days after Caleb’s forms went in, and boom, got our check for over $2,000 in the mail yesterday.

CHM vs a Traditional PPO Insurance Plan

So that’s the story of our first two submissions and hopefully they sound pretty freeing and hassle-free to you but this story is SOOO incomplete if I don’t give you all the numbers that go with this.  Here’s how our medical expenses would look for 2017 thus far vs. how much we have actually paid:

Traditional PPO Plan Through Husband’s Employer:

  • Monthly Premium: $750 for two adults and 1 child
  • Deductible: $3000 per person
    • $2,387 spent so far for Caleb
    • $3,000 spent for me

Total Cost: $10,637
($750 X 7 Months) + $2387 + $3000 = $10,637

HMO Plan on Individual Market (cheapest plan available where I live)

  • Monthly Premium: $484.70 for 1 adult and 1 child
  • Deductible: $6850 per person
    • $2,387 spent so far for Caleb
    • $3,450 spent for me

Total Cost: $9,229.90
($484.70 x7 months) +$2387 + $3450=9229.90

Christian Healthcare Ministries

  • Monthly Premium: $300 for 1 adult and 1 child
  • Deductible: $0
    • $0 spent for Caleb’s
    • $0 spent for me

Total Cost: $2,100**
$300 x 7 months = 2,100

WOW, Do you see that?  We have saved between $7,129.90 and $8,537 by choosing Christian Healthcare Ministries over the other traditional plans available to us.

**In an effort to be fully transparent and honest, we have paid a few extra hundred dollars to cover Caleb’s routine check-ups and an ear infection appointment at the pediatrician.  I’m not sure what the total of those comes to but I know it doesn’t tip the scale in favor of traditional insurance!

The Ins and Outs of CHM’s Gold Plan

Hopefully my story and the financial breakdown has grabbed your attention. It sure got mine when I started looking at this in 2016.  Before you run off and change up your insurance though, let me outline a few of the key points of this plan:

    1. First, we are on CHM’s Gold Plan and it’s really their only plan that is comparable to traditional insurance coverage.  The other plans only reimburse expenses incurred at hospitals and I guess are geared more for catastrophic incidents only…like a car crash or something.
    2. Expect to see some different terminology when you check out cost sharing.  Terms like monthly premium and deductible are not used but the concepts are generally the same.
    3. Only incidents costing more than $500 are eligible for reimbursement.
    4. Prescription medication is only covered if it is needed to treat an incident.  So if Caleb had needed a prescription pain killer for his stitches, that would be covered.  If he get’s an ear infection that costs less than $500 to treat and needs an antibiotic, the antibiotic is not covered and neither is the doctor’s visit.
    5. CHM issues a discount prescription card for free.  The discount varies for different medications.
    6. The Gold plan caps benefits at $125,000 per illness/incident unless you opt to sign up for their Brother’s Keeper program which then offers unlimited coverage per illness/incident. Brother’s Keeper averages $25 per unit per quarter and has a yearly admin fee of $40 (per the website).  Our cost for the last quarter was $30 per unit, or $60 total for my son and I.
    7. CHM uses units as opposed to people.  I am one unit and ALL MY KIDS are another unit.  That means that even after our second son is born in August, our monthly cost of $300 will not go up!!
    8. Like any insurance, certain conditions may not be covered.  Abortion and pregnancy expenses incurred outside of marriage are examples that are not covered by CHM given that they are a Christian organization.  Injuries from drunk driving would be another example.  Exclusions are listed clearly on the website and are worth checking out.
    9. You can join at any time.  There is no standard open enrollment so drop your crazy insurance plan now and join up with us.  

****If you decide to join after reading my post, please use the link above or include my name and member number (285483) in the sponsor section of your application!  This will earn us a free month of coverage and we will be soooo grateful!****


  1. Christian Cost Sharing is Better:

    Christian cost sharing with CHM is great for so many reasons but here’s what I love most:

    • CHM is drastically cheaper than any other option available to me.
    • All children after number 1 are essentially free.
    • I have the freedom to choose ANY doctor and do not have to worry about in-network or out-of-network.  In a hospital, many doctors, like the anesthesiologist who gave me my epidural during my first delivery, can be out-of-network without you having any idea or ability to choose someone else.
    • We have no deductible for incidents over $500
    • I remain in control of the entire process and do not have to deal with the processing departments at a gigantic and poorly run insurance company.  If you have ever used your insurance for more than routine check-ups then you KNOW what I am talking about here!  The control and freedom is AMAZING.

 

Joining CHM is proving to be the BEST decision I have made in a long, long time.  I hope you will check out CHM and join the program.   Let me know if you have questions about Christian cost sharing, our experience, or if I can offer any additional information/clarification about CHM!

****If you decide to join after reading my post, please use the link above or include my name and member number (285483) in the sponsor section of your application!  This will earn us a free month of coverage and we will be soooo grateful!****

 

-Sara H.

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