Comparison of Health Sharing Plans

It felt like a bad middle school break up—“It’s not you, it’s me.” This time though, the letter came from my insurance company. It began the way you would expect:

“We’ve tried hard to make the Affordable Care Act (ACA) work and have offered Marketplace plans statewide…However, this has proven challenging.”

The COO continued with more fluff:

“We have reached the difficult yet necessary decision…”—before dropping this bombshell on several cities in Tennessee: “…that BlueCross won’t be able to offer Individual/Marketplace health plans in your area for 2017.”

Like many Americans facing higher premiums (even with our already high-deductible plans), my family is left, once again, to navigate the confusing insurance industry.

Before you jump right back into the marketplace, let me encourage you to see if a health care sharing ministry (HCSM) is right for your family. About 50,000 new members joined health sharing plans in the last year. Over the last six years, membership has more than doubled, according to The New York Times, bringing total membership to 535,000.

What is a health care sharing ministry?

The Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries explains that HCSMs:

  • Provide a health care cost sharing arrangement;
  • Operate as 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations;
  • Are typically faith-based.

It’s important to note–HCSMs are not insurance companies. Enrollment is voluntary, and members are not guaranteed payment of medical bills.

Comparison of Health Sharing Plans

Photo Credit: hda insurance via Flickr

So how do you choose a plan?

The plans we reviewed are pretty similar. Check out our side-by-side comparison of health sharing plans below. Be sure to read each plan’s fine print for yourself. The members of HCSMs influence the plans, so their terms and conditions do change from time to time.

Liberty HealthShare Altrua Christian Healthcare Ministries Medi-Share Samaritan
Members are ACA Exempt X X X X X
Requires health questionnaire X X X X X
Limits on pre-existing conditions* X X X X X
Sharing starts immediately X X X X x
Includes prescriptions** X X X X X
Catastrophic program options available X X X X X
Monthly sharing payments automated

(versus manual send to individual members)

Available in all states X x X x
Allows non-evangelical faiths

(e.g. Catholic, Mormon, other)

No network (Use any doctor/hospital) X X X
Medical bills sent electronically

(e.g. membership card)

Automatic bill negotiation with providers X X X
Shares in alternative and natural treatments X X
Annual Personal Responsibility $500/$1,000/$1,500





6 programs

$300 x 3 individuals

Or $900 per family

Monthly Cost Range (Min Individual Max Family)*** $107-$449 $100-$780

(age based)

$90-$450 $64-$627

(age based)

Max Limits No limit Annual Max – not applicable for Gold/Silver; $50,000 for Bronze.

Lifetime Max: $1,000,000

No limit No limit No limit

(*2015 data for most of chart)

How do you decide?

For starters, you must determine what matters the most to you and your family. As you review the chart, begin crossing off plans that won’t meet your needs.

  • Have a problem with paying medical bills for non-evangelicals? Then cross off Liberty, Altrua, and Christian Healthcare Ministries.
  • Don’t want to be constrained to a network? Before you mark off Altrua and Medi-Share, call to see if your doc is already in their network.
  • Want to be reimbursed for natural treatments? Liberty and Altrua are your only two options.

Automatic billing and bill negotiation can save time.

Automatic billing is a plus for us. Paying bills is stressful, and I for one don’t have the desire to spend time on bill negotiation? Members of Samaritan and Christian Health Care receive their medical bills and then have to negotiate any possible discounts.

I’d rather pay a little bit more for my family each year then argue with a hospital’s billing department.

Photo Credit: ManionAssociates via Flickr

Photo Credit: ManionAssociates via Flickr

Price vs. Value

Several plans have multiple program options, like Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Standard and Advanced. That’s great, right? Consumers get various price points. But as with conventional insurance policies, your benefits, options, and flexibility can vary significantly from one program price point to the next.

Our Conclusion

Based on our comparison of health sharing plans, we have a slight bias towards Liberty and Altrua.

Michele, a freelance writer and author of Making Sense of Cents blog, gives a great explanation of why she and her husband think Liberty is the best.

Here are some Altrua highlights to serve as a counterpoint to Michele’s analysis:

  • Members don’t need a church leader to sign an acknowledgement verifying church attendance.
  • Members’ bills are reimbursed out of a centralized escrow account. (You don’t have to wait for another member to send you a check.)

Samaritan is another solid option. My son Austin chose Samaritan for his family of four!

Remember, HCSMs are not insurance companies. They cannot guarantee eligible needs will be reimbursed. Please read the fine print the same way you would with any other major financial decision and make sure you fully understand the membership guidelines before submitting your application.

We’d love to help you make the right decision for your family. Give us a call if you have any questions.


Altrua Plans, Providers,

Misc. Sources:


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