Posted on June 22, 2005

Medi-Share: the Cadillac of uninsurance


Christian cost-sharing health insurance gaining subscribers
By Bob Jones IV, with Joe Maxwell
Church Central
June 21, 2005

The members of Medi-Share conduct a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week prayer chain for fellow members who have suffered sickness or injury serious enough to require filing a claim. At least, they would have filed claims with traditional insurers. At Medi-Share they file “needs,” which bring not only the traditional reimbursement check, but also a card or letter from another member who has prayed for them.

Proponents of Christian cost-sharing ministries say they shouldn’t have to support with their premium dollars the destructive conduct of others. Medi-Share president, John Reinhold, said his healthcare program is based on a model of Christian community found in the New Testament.

“Our members believe in sharing and caring,” he said, “but they do not wish to subsidize those Christians or non-Christians who choose to live in a way which inevitably leads to a premature breakdown in mind and body, i.e., using tobacco, taking drugs, gluttony.”

Medi-Share ask(s) members to send their monthly dues to the main office, which then redistributes the resources to those who have needs that month. Members then receive a notification from the main office informing them of the specific person whose need they helped to meet, and they are encouraged to write and pray for that member as well.

Medi-Share boasts that, “to date, no member has ever been refused treatment by any medical entity.”

Or as Medi-Share’s Robert Dixon put it, “Those who join are grateful that behind us is a multi-billion dollar ‘safety-net’ entity and beneath us are the everlasting arms.”

And from the Medi-Share website:

What’s Medi-Share?

Medi-Share is an exciting non-insurance healthcare alternative bringing together healthy, caring Christians to share medical costs, saving families thousands of dollars each year. And it works! Over the past decade, Medi-Share Members have shared over $100,000,000 in healthcare costs!

What is health sharing?

Health sharing is a biblical alternative to conventional healthcare programs. Medi-Share is a not for profit Christian program that provides Christians the opportunity to share health expenses. Medi-Share members agree to faithfully send a specified amount each month to take care of their share of the eligible medical expenses of those members who experience accidents, sickness, or disease. Over the years these share amounts have been much less than the amount required for conventional health care programs.

How much is the monthly share amount?

The current monthly share for the Medi-Share 250 program is $346 for an entire family, $275 for 2 persons and $145 for a single.

What about medical conditions prior to membership?

Special attention is paid to any medical condition for which the member has within the twelve months prior to joining Medi-Share: a) incurred charges, b) received medical treatment, c) taken medication, and/or d) had symptoms which could have been diagnosed or for which a prudent person would have sought care. No expense for treatment of such a condition will be considered for sharing until the condition is documented by a physician and the member has gone at least twelve months without incurring charges, receiving medical treatment, taking medication, or experiencing symptoms for that or related conditions. The cure must be documented in the medical records and approved by the Medi-Share medical staff.

Will I benefit from choosing from a network of preferred providers?

So that Members can keep medical costs as low as possible, Medi-Share utilizes Beech Street, the nation’s largest independent preferred provider organization (PPO) network.

Are members required to call before using healthcare services?

Yes. Members must call 800-ASK-FIRST (800-275-3477) prior to non-emergency medical treatment or be assessed a penalty of $250.

Comment: The following comments are directed exclusively toward the policy implications of this model of cost sharing. This policy discussion would apply equally to similar secular-sponsored programs as it would to this Christian-sponsored plan.

There is an intense campaign taking place in the United States to make health care coverage (premiums) more affordable by relaxing the regulations to which insurers must comply. Legislation is pending before Congress that would require compliance with only the least restrictive state regulations by allowing national marketing of health coverage products originating from minimally regulated states. Not only would that allow products with grossly inadequate benefits and cost sharing that is unaffordable, but it would also allow exclusion of precisely those individuals with greater health care needs. Obviously this would defeat the societal need to share health expenses.

Medi-Share is ahead of the game. It looks like an insurance company. It collects monthly share “premiums.” It excludes pre-existing conditions, marketing exclusively to healthy individuals with an exemplary lifestyle. It uses a PPO network. It requires preauthorization. The one crucial difference is that this organization escapes state regulatory oversight of insurers through the following disclaimer:

“Attention - This program is not supported by an insurance company, nor is it offered through an insurance company. This program does not guarantee or promise that your medical bills will be published or assigned to others for payment. Whether anyone chooses to pay your bills is entirely voluntary. This program should never be considered a substitute for an insurance policy. Whether or not you receive any payments for medical expenses and whether or not this program continues to operate, you are responsible for payment of your own medical bills.”

It’s obvious where all of this is headed. Are we going to allow the 80% who are healthy to protect themselves from the costs of the 20% who are not, who utilize 80% of our health care services? If so, how will the 60 million people who are utilizing $1.5 trillion in health care pay for that? That’s roughly $25,000 per person.

Don’t we have enough social solidarity to decide that we should have a single risk pool to which the great majority who are healthy contribute to ensure coverage for the minority who are sick?

Apparently not. Some even seem to believe that it’s not the Christian thing to do.