Q&A: Health sharing plans don’t work for everyone

Dear Liz: I read your column about healthcare options for couples planning for retirement today. I’ve recently learned about and signed up for health sharing. The benefits are closely comparable to traditional insurance and less expensive. If you haven’t heard about this, I think it’s worth looking into.

Answer: Christian health sharing plans are an alternative to traditional insurance, but they’re not actually health insurance. Members agree to pay each other’s medical bills, up to certain limits. Members typically must be Christians who attend church regularly and don’t use tobacco, among other restrictions. These plans often don’t cover preventive care such as mammograms or colonoscopies and may not cover mental health care, addiction treatment or other so-called “essential services” that are typically required of health insurance.

The plans can help with some healthcare costs, but the amounts that can be paid out are typically capped. That means that an accident or illness could still bankrupt you. In addition, the plans typically don’t cover preexisting conditions or limit the coverage they offer. Since few people reach their 50s and 60s without a preexisting condition or six, these plans aren’t a viable substitute for many people approaching retirement.

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Comments

  1. E.W KNightly says:

    I was a member of a health sharing plan before turning 65 and getting Medicare. The membership met the required mandate to have health coverage so that I didn’t have to pay any penalty. The monthly coverage was about 1/4 the cost of getting coverage through the exchanges (!). The sharing plan had several alternative ways to get help with per-existing conditions and extra medical tests. Also, although I didn’t have to use the coverage during my years on it, I understand that most people using it were very satisfied. It’s worth checking into.