The Many Unknowns of Health Care Sharing Ministries


Health care sharing ministries have for years served a niche market, providing people who follow a common set of religious beliefs with financial assistance for medical expenses. But, despite appearances, what the ministries provide is not traditional health insurance.

In a new Commonwealth Fund report, researchers with the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute examine laws governing health care sharing ministries in every state and review five ministries’ membership requirements and benefits. Their findings reveal the potential risks to members: exclusion of coverage for preexisting conditions, higher rates based on health status, and uncapped out-of-pocket expenses. And by drawing healthier individuals out of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, ministries may help create smaller and sicker risk pools in that market, leading to higher premiums and fewer plan choices.

For consumers not receiving marketplace subsidies, health care sharing ministries offer lower up-front costs. But as the authors note, “these arrangements may produce unforeseen consequences for members who do not understand what they are buying.”

HCSMs will cause sicker risk pools_1x1 Read the report The Many Unknowns of Health Care Sharing Ministries