Obamacare and Health Sharing

Broken piggy bankHealth Sharing a Legal Alternative to Obamacare 

The March 31 deadline for enrolling inObamacare is looming. Those who have yet to sign up for health insurance coverage might be pleased to know there is an alternative available. Known as healthcare sharing, it involves members “sharing” medical expenses rather than submitting insurance claims.Members enroll and pay a monthly fee to program administrators. This money is then used to pay the qualified medical expenses of other members. Those who have claims submit them for review, and then fundsare dispersed to cover them. Individuals must meet a certain threshold before submitting claims, which is normally around $300.Samaritan Ministries is one health-sharing group that claims to have more than 30,000 members. According to their website, they cover around $7 million in medical needs each month. Their monthly share amount is based on family size and age, with the maximum amount being charged to two-parent families currently being $370.

Health sharing members must typically commit to a healthy lifestyle in order to be admitted. Even so, there are no restrictions on pre-existing conditions, so individuals can join regardless of their health history. There is also no lifetime cap on payments, and no requirement to see doctors who are in a particular network.

The health-sharing exemption is authorized by the Affordable Care Act, so members who join one of these programs will not face a penalty for being uninsured. Exactly how members will report their membership to the IRS is not known at this time, as this information will likely not be available until 2015.

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