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The Top Questions About Christian Healthcare Ministries

The cost of health care can be huge—and sometimes catastrophic! Health insurance can also be expensive, and if your insurance plan isn’t great, you can be left holding the bag for a lot of your health care costs. So maybe you’re looking into health share plans as a smart alternative to traditional health insurance. Smart move!

As inflation looms, causing prices for everything to go up, health cost sharing is getting pretty popular. (Health cost sharing just means that members of the plan help pay each other's medical bills.) It lets participants have each other’s backs in tough times—and by cutting out a lot of red tape, cost sharing has been able to keep participant costs low.

We not only love health cost sharing plans as an alternative to traditional health insurance, we even have a trusted partner we highly recommend—Christian Healthcare Ministries.

What Is Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is one of the oldest and best health sharing plans on the market. CHM follows a simple biblical model—helping Christians share health care costs like medical tests, maternity, hospitalization and surgery. For over four decades, the ministry has helped thousands of families and individuals get vital medical coverage and saved many families from the kind of financial ruin medical debt can bring.

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The founders of CHM believe that sharing the burden of medical expenses with neighbors is a key part of true Christian charity. Since 1981, CHM has been helping Christians put that belief into practice by pooling the resources of families, churches and ministries—and encouraging participants to pray for each other’s health.

As a nonprofit ministry (technically not insurance), CHM helps hundreds of thousands of members each year cover their medical needs in all 50 states and overseas.

How Does Christian Healthcare Ministries Work?

Unlike traditional insurance, CHM has no contracts for members. Any Christian can join at any time and help share medical costs by simply doing two things:

  • Agreeing to the CHM statement of faith, and
  • Making a pre-set monthly gift to CHM, determined by the level of participation you choose (and yes, the more you pay, the greater the level of cost sharing when you submit eligible medical bills).

CHM uses your monthly gifts (kind of like the premiums you’re used to sending to health insurance companies) to fund coverage of all members’ eligible medical bills. Every time a CHM member submits a bill for cost sharing, the ministry’s independent board of directors reviews the bill for eligibility. (More on that below.)

In more than four decades of operation, CHM members have exercised their faith and shared the cost of 100% of eligible medical bills. That’s impressive coverage!

Who Does CHM Make Sense For?

With the cost of health care rising annually, CHM makes sense for all kinds of people. While CHM is not health insurance, it is a federally certified exemption to the individual mandate under the U.S. Affordable Care Act. That means it’s a great option for anyone who doesn’t like being forced to pay for insurance that covers medical services that violate their religious beliefs.

Here are some of the other people CHM would probably appeal to:

  • Christians who want to live out the biblical practice of bearing each other’s burdens
  • A healthy family who wants to save money on their monthly health care budget
  • Stay-at-home parents who can’t get health insurance through an employer or spousal benefit
  • Someone in a job with no health insurance coverage for employees
  • Someone who wants an affordable way to supplement Medicare

What Are the Participation Levels for Christian Healthcare Ministries?

CHM offers three levels of participation: Bronze, Silver and Gold. And like the Olympic medals, the benefits increase from Bronze up to Gold. Here are a few details.

Bronze Level

  • Personal responsibility level of $5,000 per incident
  • Includes:
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
  • Surgery performed at medical facilities such as, but not limited to, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers

Silver Level

  • Personal responsibility level of $2,500 per incident
  • Includes:
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
  • Surgery performed at medical facilities such as, but not limited to, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers

Gold Level

  • Gold level members pay for any expenses that total less than $1,000 per incident. CHM shares 100% of eligible medical expenses that cost more than $500 per incident.
  • Includes:
  • inpatient and outpatient hospital services
  • Urgent care
  • Incident-related office visits and prescriptions
  • Independent lab work and radiology
  • Physical therapy (but limitations may apply)
  • Home health care (up to 45 visits per eligible injury or sickness)
  • Maternity (eligible for sharing on Gold Level only)
  • CHM SeniorShare™ gift reduction (available to Gold members age 65 and older)

How Does Christian Healthcare Ministries Handle Catastrophic Medical Events?

CHM provides cost sharing for catastrophic medical events through Brother’s Keeper. It’s a program that lets members contribute to other members’ medical bills that exceed the ordinary defined limit of $125,000 maximum lifetime sharing per illness. If something should happen that sends your bills for a certain illness above that threshold, Brother’s Keeper would allow you to get more financial help beyond what you’ve already received through ordinary sharing. But you have to add it to your participation agreement.

Members can add Brother’s Keeper coverage (kind of like a rider in an insurance package) at any time. In order to share the cost of an illness with Brother’s Keeper, you would need to have already added it prior to experiencing any signs, symptoms, testing or treatment for the illness you need assistance with.

Brother’s Keeper applies differently depending on the member’s participation level. Cost support for Gold members is unlimited. Silver and Bronze members receive an additional $100,000 in cost support per illness, per year. So long as you maintain Brother’s Keeper, you will receive your additional annual $100,000 in cost sharing on the anniversary of joining. Each illness, though, does have a lifetime maximum of $1 million in medical expenses.

I Have Preexisting Conditions: Is Christian Healthcare Ministries a Good Option?

Yes. Even for those with preexisting conditions, Christian Healthcare Ministries is a great way to cover health care costs. They offer two ways to share the cost of treatment for preexisting conditions:

  • The Gold Schedule
  • The Prayer Page

We’ll talk a lot more below about both options, but for now it’s worth mentioning that the Gold Schedule sharing is only available to Gold Level participants. But nobody’s getting left out here. For participants at any level, including Silver and Bronze, the Prayer Page is a great way to share the costs of maintained preexisting conditions.

Before we talk through how each of those features works, let’s define preexisting conditions and see how they can qualify for sharing in CHM.

What is a preexisting condition?

CHM defines this as any medical condition for which a member experiences signs, symptoms, testing or treatment (including routine or maintenance medications) before joining CHM. And those rules apply regardless of whether the member has received a diagnosis. If you’ve been suffering from a condition and it’s still happening, that’s a preexisting condition. Simple enough, right?

Now when it comes to cost sharing, CHM puts preexisting conditions into two basic categories, active and maintained. Active preexisting conditions don’t qualify for sharing (but they could qualify in the future, as described more below).

When you become a CHM member with a preexisting condition, only maintained conditions would qualify for sharing (and we’ll talk more below about what maintained means in terms of preexisting conditions).

Is it possible for a condition I have today to drop out of the preexisting category in the future?

Yes! A condition would no longer be considered preexisting (and would become eligible for future consideration in sharing) if all three of the following are true:

  1. You go one year without signs, symptoms or treatment, and
  2. You are not on a maintenance medication regimen for the condition, and
  3. Both changes are documented by your official medical records.

Then, if the condition should ever recur, you’ll be eligible to share the cost of treatment with other members in CHM, as long as you can show the proof the first instance was maintained.

What about cancer?

For anyone with cancer as a preexisting condition, in order to be eligible for future sharing of cancer-related treatment, both of the following must be true:

  1. Your doctor has pronounced you cancer-free or cured, and
  2. You have gone five years without any signs, symptoms, treatment or testing (routine follow-up appointments don’t count against the five years).

How does CHM define active vs. maintained conditions?

Active and maintained are the two basic categories of preexisting conditions. As already mentioned, only maintained preexisting conditions will qualify for sharing at the time you enroll in CHM. Active preexisting conditions unfortunately won’t qualify at that time.

But we’re all hoping that your condition clears up! And if, after becoming maintained, it should recur in the future, any related treatments would be eligible for sharing with CHM members.

Here's a little more detail on how CHM defines active vs. maintained conditions:

  1. CHM considers a condition active (and rules out the sharing of related medical bills) if both of the following are true:
  • You’ve experienced any signs or symptoms either before or at the time of joining CHM, and
  • Your condition needs ongoing testing or treatment (other than maintenance medications). This applies regardless of whether you’ve received a medical diagnosis for the condition.
  1. On the other hand, CHM deems your condition maintained when the following are all true:
  • You’ve gone at least 90 days without having any testing or treatment, and
  • Your medical provider says that no more testing or treatment are needed, and
  • Your medical records show you’re either cured or on a maintenance treatment regimen.

What are the preexisting conditions that may be eligible for sharing?

This is not an exhaustive list (and CHM may require medical records to decide if expenses from these conditions qualify as a maintained preexisting condition). But here’s a partial list of preexisting conditions which CHM members have successfully gotten covered through cost sharing in the past:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Kidney disorders

Heart conditions (stents, pacemakers, medications, etc.)

Diabetes

Bunions

High blood pressure

Thyroid issues

Crohn’s disease

Arthritis

Joint pain

Glaucoma

High cholesterol

Cataracts

Cancer

Skin disorders

Asthma

Epilepsy

Congenital conditions

Back or neck pain

Menorrhagia

Carpal tunnel

What is the Gold Schedule?

CHM offers a schedule to Gold level participants for how they receive assistance with eligible medical bills for maintained preexisting conditions. Here’s the deal:

  1. In the first year of membership, up to $15,000 in bills related to a preexisting condition are eligible for sharing.
  2. In the first two years of membership, up to $25,000 in costs for a preexisting condition are eligible for sharing ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year).
  3. In the first three years of membership, bills for up to $50,000 for a preexisting condition are eligible for sharing ($15,000 during the first year plus $10,000 during the second year plus $25,000 during the third year).
  4. After the third year of membership, the condition is no longer considered preexisting and is eligible for regular sharing.*

What is the Prayer Page?

It’s one of our favorite things about CHM! This is a program that encourages members to do two things:

  • Share the costs of eligible bills that other members have received as a result of maintained preexisting conditions
  • Pray for one another specifically about illnesses and medical needs

The Prayer Page listing is updated every month in CHM’s member newsletter. If members grant permission to CHM, the magazine will include stories of those members’ conditions, current financial needs, and how readers can contribute specifically to that member if they wish. CHM also accepts and encourages general donations to the Prayer Page!

What makes it so beautiful is that the funds that flow through the Prayer Page program are voluntary donations members make above and beyond their pre-set monthly gift amounts. And what inspires these gifts? The sheer love members feel as they are moved to give even more deeply to other members when reading about their specific health needs.

Can switching participation levels affect my ability to share preexisting conditions?

Yes. Switching levels up or down may impact the sharing of current or ongoing expenses for preexisting conditions. Here are the three scenarios.

  1. Switching to a lower level. Sometimes you have to save money by opting for fewer bells and whistles. We get it! But just be aware that when you downgrade your participation level in CHM, all eligible medical bills for a maintained preexisting condition will only be shared on the Prayer Page at the new lower level, no matter when the bills were submitted or incurred.
  2. Switching from Bronze to Silver. Two things here. First, all preexisting illnesses previously shared on Bronze level will stay right at that Bronze level of sharing throughout the life of your membership. Then second (and this is awesome), any new illnesses which start after the Silver level start date will be treated and shared on the Silver level.
  3. Switching to Gold. Similar to switching up to Silver, once an illness begins at a lower level, that’s the level of sharing where it will remain for the lifetime of the membership, or until the member is cured and free of signs, symptoms and treatment (including medications) for one year. This limitation applies regardless of whether medical bills have been previously submitted for sharing. Medical records may be requested. But the good news is that any new illnesses beginning after the Gold level start date will be considered for sharing at Gold level.

Do Doctors Accept Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Yes, thousands of doctors nationwide gladly work with and receive payment for services from CHM.

In fact, any doctors who accept self-pay patients (aka patients who pay with cash) will accept CHM members. To date, CHM has worked with more than 100,000 health care providers nationwide.

So long as your bills are eligible for sharing within the CHM Guidelines outlined above—you have the flexibility to pick your own provider. But CHM expects you to choose doctors who offer self-pay discounts, fair prices and reliable service. To help find highly rated doctors near you, Christian Healthcare Ministries even has a database of recommended providers.

Ready to Get Excellent Health Care Coverage?

If you’d like to experience the benefits that health share plans offer—lower costs, less red tape, a chance to help others, and health care expenses that line up with your personal beliefs—our RamseyTrusted provider Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) can help you figure out your options.

*The Gold Schedule rules for sharing costs related to medical bills incurred from preexisting conditions are taken from the Christian Healthcare Ministries information packet here.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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