Thursday, March 13, 2014

Health Cost Sharing Ministries

I mentioned a few months back Samaritan Ministries, a health cost sharing ministry that is an alternative to health insurance -- and quite a bit less expensive than going through the exchanges.  Unfortunately, my heart would qualify as a pre-existing condition, so this did not make sense for me after I retire.  However, Christian Healthcare Ministries is a similar health cost sharing system, with a somewhat more useful pre-existing condition arrangement:

A pre-existing condition is any medical condition for which you experience signs, symptoms or treatment before joining Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM). 
We distinguish between pre-existing conditions in "active" treatment and conditions in "maintenance" treatment. Medical bills cannot be shared if, at the time you join CHM, the bills are for pre-existing conditions that are actively undergoing treatment other than with maintenance (routine) medications. After the incident is over and your doctor states that you are on a maintenance treatment regimen, bills for any new incident related to the pre-existing illness are eligible for sharing according to the information below.
If these criteria are met, Gold level members can receive assistance with medical bills for pre-existing conditions according to the following schedule:
• In the first year of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $15,000.
• In the first two years of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $25,000 ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year).
• In the first three years of participation, bills incurred for a pre-existing condition are eligible for sharing up to $50,000 ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year plus $25,000 during the third year).
• After the third year of participation, the condition will no longer be considered pre-existing.
Assuming that interest rates rise enough for me to retire at the end of this year, I will already be seventeen months away from that surgery, and at least fourteen months of "maintenance" treatment, assuming that taking blood pressure medications alone constitutes maintenance.  Short of a valve failure (which seems most unlikely in the next fifteen to twenty years), it would seem that this solves my problem.  The cost is about $150 per person per month, and you are expected to pay the first $500 per illness or incident out of pocket.  Since there are few illnesses that end up being that expensive, this is roughly equivalent to a catastrophic policy.

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