- Heather Ellis
Christian Healthcare Ministries, my answer to rising healthcare costs
Hi everyone! I have had a lot of friends ask me about what health insurance I use, and I wanted to compile all of the information into one place. I know a lot of people are looking into alternatives for expensive health insurance, especially here in Utah, so I hope this can help someone! There is a lot of information here but I tried to be thorough! If you do decide to join the program, I would love if you use my referral link, because I do get a free month of membership for one unit if you sign up using my code, and every little bit helps. Thank you so much!!
*I also want to make a disclaimer that all of the information shared here is from my own personal experience and my understanding of how Christian Healthcare Ministries works. I am not speaking on behalf of them. Please do your own research to make sure it's the best fit for your family. They have a great website as well as VERY helpful customer service representatives who are easy to get a hold of and can answer all of your questions.*
As a business owner and photographer here in Utah, most health insurance options are extremely expensive and just not practical. My husband does have a full time job with another company, but we were paying upwards of $1,200 a month for his health insurance and I just couldn't do it anymore! So about 5 years ago I started looking into other options, and I found Christian Healthcare Ministries.
Christian Healthcare ministries (CHM) is a Healthshare company for Christians. There are a few of these companies out there, but after doing extensive research and talking to a lot of friends who have used other options, I believe that CHM is the absolute best. It is not traditional health insurance and might not be the best option for everyone, but let me explain the basics of how it works. Basically, you gift a set amount of money to the healthshare program each month, and that money gets shared between the members to cover their medical costs. There are three different levels of coverage to choose from (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and the benefits are different based on which plan you choose. For example, the Gold Program is the only one that covers maternity, but the Silver and Bronze options are cheaper.
The price of coverage is charged PER UNIT which is different than other policies. Most families have three units in them - each adult counts as one separate unit, but all children count as one unit together. I started out with coverage for just myself and was paying for one unit each month. When I added my children I started paying for 2 units each month. My husband isn’t on it but he would be the 3rd unit. You can read about the different levels of coverage and their costs and benefits here: https://www.chministries.org/programs-costs/. Last I checked, you are considered a member from the day you fill out the application. There is also a program called Brother's Keeper which costs on average an additional $25 per month per unit and raises your coverage limit per incident from $125,000 to unlimited (on Gold). I am a worse-case scenario type of person, so I would rather have unlimited coverage, but most people are fine with the coverage of $125,000.
Ok, now that I have talked about the pricing, let's talk about how it actually works. I am going to talk in terms of the Gold Program because that is what I use. So these numbers won't be accurate for other Programs but will give you an idea of how it works. It takes a little more effort than traditional health insurance, but it's worth it! Christian Healthcare Ministries is a healthshare program, so they collect gifts from each member every month, then distribute that money back to members who are eligible for their health costs to be shared (reimbursed). Each time you go to the doctor, get a surgery, etc. you will be a CASH PAYING patient, and then if those costs qualify for sharing you will send in your bills and fill out some paperwork and CHM will send you a check within 2-3 months. I have a credit card that we use specifically for health costs so that I am able to keep track of what I spend and earn some points along the way! I usually pay it off right away, but sometimes if it is a big bill I have to wait until my reimbursement comes. I know not everyone can pay cash up front, but talk to your doctor and see if you can do a payment program, etc. CHM does request that you try to negotiate bills down as low as possible so that the costs for everyone in the program can stay low, and I have found that most doctors and hospitals are willing to give discounts to people paying cash. For example, here in Utah the IHC hospitals will give a 40% discount on any surgeries, etc. if you are able to pay in advance. Taking advantages of these discounts when I can is my way of keeping the sharing costs down for everyone (including myself). I have found that if you are upfront with people that you are paying cash they will be willing to help you find ways to bring costs down.
So, what costs qualify to be shared? With the Gold Program, any "incident" that costs more than $500 is covered completely. Let's clarify what an incident is. If you go to the doctor for a one time visit and it costs you $275, you will not be reimbursed because it is less than $500. But if you go to the doctor for a broken arm, and then they send you to get an x-ray, and then to a specialist, and then you need surgery, and then there is a follow-up appointment - that ALL counts as ONE incident since it was all related to the broken arm. Since all of those bills together will cost more than $500, EVERYTHING will be covered. You will pay for everything in cash (either up front or agree to be billed), then you will send a copy of all of your bills to CHM along with some of their paperwork describing the incident, and within 2-3 months you will get your check in the mail to cover all of your eligible costs. Pretty great, right?!
Now, what isn't covered? Routine doctor's visits most likely won't be covered because they won't exceed $500. Prescriptions aren't covered (unless they are given as part of a hospital stay/surgery), so we use things like GoodRX and are usually able to work with our doctors to find the most affordable prescriptions. Maternity is only covered under the Gold Program, and you must be enrolled at least about a month before becoming pregnant (300 days before the baby's estimated due date) in order to be covered. Pre-existing conditions aren't covered right away, but after a certain amount of time may be covered (I would contact them or go to their website for more details about pre-existing conditions). There is also something called the Prayer Page. If you have costs that aren't eligible for sharing under your plan, you can submit them to the Prayer Page. Some members choose to donate extra money each month, and that money is distributed to people on the Prayer Page. As long as you are a member of CHM, you can request help through the Prayer Page.
I have personally saved thousands of dollars by using Christian Healthcare Ministries, especially with my last pregnancy, which was completely covered (I would have been paying at least $12,000 for deductibles with our previous insurance, not to mention the high monthly premiums). I have never had a problem with getting reimbursed for anything, and if there is a problem or question they are quick to contact me to fix the problem. I also just love the idea of everyone being willing to help each other. There are some really kind people who participate in this program. It is true that it is not actually "health insurance" and they aren't legally required to reimburse you, but they have been in business since the 1980's and have a great reputation. For me, it's a risk I am willing to take.
Please feel free to email me if you have more questions. If you want to sign up, I would really appreciate you using my referral link below! It will give me a discount on my monthly payments which I am very grateful for!!! Thank you!