What You Need To Know About Health Share Programs

If your health insurance premiums are making you sick, you might want to explore Man handing a healthcare professional a cardanother option that’s becoming increasingly popular: a health share program.

A health share program can be a way to get medical coverage that’s sufficient for your needs. With open enrollment starting soon, on Nov. 1, it’s worth your while to learn about this kind of health coverage before you renew your existing plan.

Here’s all you need to know about health share programs.

What is a health share program?

A health share program, also known as a health care sharing ministry, actually works a lot like a credit union. There’s no Big Cheese sitting on top of a wealthy corporation while trying to dream up new ways to squeeze money out of you. Instead, the program is run by a not-for-profit religious organization and is jointly owned by members who share expenses for their collective medical needs.

Most people opt to join a health share program because of the significant savings potential: A family of four can easily find a health share plan for just a few hundred dollars a month. Many others will choose this kind of health care because conventional health insurance covers medical procedures that are not in line with their religious beliefs.

Some popular health share programs include Liberty Healthshare, Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries.

How does a health share program work?

Health share programs are usually faith-based. As such, members must agree to uphold certain religious beliefs before joining the program. Once they’ve signed up, members are charged a monthly premium based upon their age and general health. They will then receive a membership card they can present to a medical practitioner in lieu of an insurance card. The practitioner will then bill the sharing program for the cost of the member’s visit.

How does a health share program differ from traditional health insurance?

While their goal is similar, there are several important differences between a health share program and traditional insurance. Most significantly, since sharing programs are not official health insurance providers, they are not subject to the same federal laws and regulations, as reflected in several of the differences listed below.

  1. Unshared amounts – Health share programs don’t have deductibles. Instead, every member has an annual unshared amount. Some programs will begin covering a member’s medical expenses after the member has shelled out as little as $1,000 toward these costs. Other programs, though, require members to pay $5,000 toward their medical expenses each year before the program kicks in.
  2. No network requirements – All health insurance providers have a list of doctors, medical professionals, clinics and hospitals that are covered under their insurance. But members of health share programs have the freedom to use any doctor in any health care facility they desire. If a doctor refuses to accept the membership card, the member can pay out of pocket and the health share program will reimburse them for the cost of the visit.
  3. Strict rules regarding pre-existing conditions – Unlike most plans offered by the ACA, many health share programs will not accept members who have pre-existing medical conditions. Some will accept members with pre-existing conditions, but will only begin covering the attached expenses after a year – and they will only partially cover them.
  4. Refusal to cover certain procedures – Health share programs reserve the right to deny coverage for procedures that are against their religious beliefs, like abortions. Many won’t cover the costs of birth control either.
  5. Lifetime caps on coverage – Sharing plans are usually accompanied by a lifetime cap on health coverage. These caps have a broad range and their exact amount depends on the member’s chosen plan. They can be as small as $250,000 or as large as $1,000,000.
  6. Incomplete coverage – Many health share programs don’t cover costs for an annual well visit. Lots of them will not pay for vision or dental needs either.
  7. No government protection – Since health share programs are not subject to government regulation, members lose out on the government’s protection if the program does not deliver as promised. This means every member is essentially taking a risk by signing up for the health share program.
  8. Lifestyle requirements – Lots of insurance providers will encourage and reward healthful lifestyles. But a health share plan will often require members who are even slightly overweight to consult with a nutritionist and start working out.

Health share programs can be a terrific way to free up some extra cash each month, but they are not for everyone. If you are in good health and you rarely see a doctor, a health share program might be right for you. Just be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you are signing up for before joining a program.

Your Turn: Are you a member of a health share program? Tell us what you love about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://blog.bcbsnc.com/2017/12/5-things-need-know-health-share-plans/

https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/faq
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/10/24/cant-afford-obamacare-consider-a-health-care-sharing-ministry-instead
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.laurengreutman.com/save-money-with-health-care-sharing-ministries/amp/

All You Need To Know About Open Enrollment

Open enrollment is here again, and for many Americans this time period – and the entire Healthcare professionals and patienthealth insurance market – spells confusion.

Is Obamacare still in effect? Are premiums really increasing as much as predicted? Do I need to take action now if I’m happy with my insurance plan? What’s the difference between all the plans offered in the marketplace?

So many questions! No worries, though. We’ve got answers. Read on for the complete rundown on open enrollment, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and today’s health insurance options.

1.) The ACA – still in effect?

Before you go shopping for a cheaper or better insurance plan, bear in mind that the Affordable Healthcare Act is still up and running. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the current administration has overturned the program or will soon do so. While an alternative health care plan has been proposed, there has been no change in the current system thus far, and it is not likely that there will be within the next few months.

What does this mean for the average American?

The ACA has made it mandatory for every American to have sufficient health care coverage. The penalty for failing to comply with this law is the higher of $695 per adult or 2.5% of household income.

The ACA also oversees the government-run health insurance marketplace in which insurance plans can only be purchased during open enrollment. In most states, the open enrollment period for 2017 is about 6 weeks long, running from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. The following states have extended their enrollment period: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.

2.) Rising premiums or cheaper rates?

If you ask the average Jane or John Doe if insurance costs are rising or falling, you’d probably get an earful about ever-climbing premium rates and health care costs. On the flip side, though, is the government, claiming their subsidized plan and the expansion of Medicaid has health care costs steadily declining.

In fact, both arguments are true. The silver plans on the ACA marketplace rose by an average of more than 30% this past year – and 2018 is looking a whole lot worse. Premiums are expected to rise by as much as 34-50% this coming year.

The current administration has claimed it will stop paying for many of the key payments to insurers it’s previously shouldered as part of the ACA. This factor, coupled with the overwhelming uncertainty surrounding the ACA, has led insurers to drastically increase their premiums.

The 80% of customers who receive subsidized insurance through Obamacare will be shielded from these price hikes; it’s the other 20% who will bear the brunt of the unstable marketplace.

The premium increase rates will vary by state and by the individual, but it is quite possible for an Obamacare customer who was paying $593 a month in premiums in 2017 to be saddled with a monthly premium of $1,001 in 2018!

All this uncertainty has led to another significant development: Many providers have left the marketplace plans. This means your doctor may no longer be part of your insurance plan. Be sure to find out about any possible changes before open enrollment is up, even if you aren’t looking to change your plan.

3.) Where to apply

If you do not receive insurance coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or your workplace, you may want to consider changing your insurance plan this year. To find out what your options are, visit healthcare.gov. Most states offer insurance coverage through this site, while others will redirect you to a private state-run site where you can purchase a marketplace plan.

4.) Available marketplace plans

Here’s a quick synopsis of each category of plans available in the ACA marketplace:

  • Bronze: lowest monthly premiums, highest out-of-pocket costs and very high deductibles.
  • Silver: the most popular plans available, silver offers moderate premiums and out-of-pocket costs, with lower deductibles than bronze plans.
  • Gold: high monthly premiums but lower out-of-pocket costs and deductibles.
  • Platinum: the most expensive plans in the marketplace, platinum plans have the highest monthly premiums but the lowest out-of-pocket costs and very low deductibles.

There is also a catastrophic plan available for individuals under age 30 and people who have received an exemption from the marketplace due to extenuating circumstances. These plans include free preventive care, low monthly premiums and very high deductibles.

5.) Choosing your plan

When shopping for a marketplace plan, it’s important not to base your decision on price alone. Many of the cheaper plans come with a heavy price. Your primary care provider or your child’s pediatrician may not be covered under some of the less expensive plans. You may need to pay out-of-pocket for many or all prescription drugs. Lastly, a higher deductible can mean that you’ll end up paying for all of your health care needs in 2018 without “cashing in” on your premiums before the year is over.

Be sure to shop around for a plan and do lots of research before making your decision.

Be an educated consumer this open enrollment season so that you make the best decision possible. Your health is too important for anything less!

Your Turn: The nationwide health insurance challenge has been hotly contested for years. If you had the power and means, how would you change the current system? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/the-affordable-care-act-in-2017-myths-and-facts/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/10/31/time-to-shop-for-obamacare-what-you-need-to-know-this-enrollment-season.html 

https://www.aarp.org/health/health-insurance/info-2017/open-enrollment-aca-fd.html 
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/money/4826591/aca-premiums-cost-2018

13 Life Hacks to Reduce or Eliminate Medical Debt

Almost every American faces medical debt at some point in their life. So you’re not aloneiStock_000009697836_Large if you’re scared of the prospect of medical debt damaging your personal credit and causing you to go into a financial crisis when you least expect it.

Fear not! There are ways to avoid having your financial dreams derailed by a medical emergency, an unexpected procedure, or unnecessary medical expenses. Here are some life hacks we came up with that can help you reduce or eliminate medical debt:

  1. Stick to Doctors Within Your Network – If your plan requires that you visit doctors within your network, stick to those doctors so you don’t have to pay out-of-network fees.
  2. Pay Your Medical Bills In Full –Chances are you will receive a discount. Many hospitals offer a 10% discount when you agree to pay your bill in full.
  3. Don’t Switch Plans to Visit a Doctor Out-of-Network Once – You can save money if you only have to visit an out-of-network doctor once a year. Changing your plan for the sake of one service can result in higher health insurance plan premiums over the long term.
  4. Opt For “Minimum Essential Coverage” Instead of Expensive Health Insurance Plans – If you’re cash strapped and healthy, a minimum essential coverage may be your best option. These plan usually only cover preventative care and other basic medical services—not hospitalizations and outpatient surgery.
  5. Utilize Charity Care Programs – Your hospital may offer discounted services to low-income people. It’s a little known secret that you can apply for charity care programs that may reduce or eliminate your entire bill if you qualify. To get started, just call the hospital that has billed you and ask them if you can apply for their “charity care program”.
  6. Find Out What’s Covered by Your Health Insurance Provider – Before you schedule a medical procedure, find out what’s covered and at what rate. If you determine the cost will be high, talk to the referring doctor about lower cost alternatives.
  7. Request a Payment Plan – If you owe a medical bill that you are not able to pay in full, you can usually get on a payment plan with lower minimum payments. As long as you continue to pay the bill monthly, the debt should not show up on your credit report. All you have to do is call to make arrangements before the debt becomes delinquent.
  8. Use Urgent Care Centers – Find out if urgent care centers are included in your health insurance plan network. They often charge a flat fee for labs, therefore you won’t have unexpected bills later on. They can also help with a variety of problems that don’t require hospitalization, which will also save you money in the long run.
  9. Ask for Prescription Samples or Coupons – Some prescriptions are free at pharmacies such as Walmart and Meijer. When filling your prescription, ask the pharmacist if any samples or coupons are available.
  10. Combine Doctor Visits to Save Money – When visiting your doctor, make sure they address multiple issues at once so you don’t have to go back for repeat visits.
  11. Get Refills on Prescriptions from a Family Doctor Instead of a Specialist – For example, if you go to a dermatologist to get a prescription for acne, instead of going back to the dermatologist for a refill on the prescription, it may be cheaper to go to your family doctor or a general practitioner to get a refill.
  12. Research the Costs of Certain Procedures/Appointments – Research the costs of procedures and appointments ahead of time so you can choose the lowest cost provider.
  13. Apply for a Grant from the Healthwell Foundation – You can apply to receive financial assistance with covering your medical bills. If approved, they may cover $6,000 per year in medical insurance premiums (for certain diseases). Visit https://www.healthwellfoundation.org/ for more information.

Courtesy of Accel Financial Counseling, Destinations Credit Union‘s financial counseling partner.