Health Sharing Programs: The Complete Guide to Medical Cost Sharing

Published on December 14, 2018 by Lauren

When I became the sole breadwinner of my home, I started shopping around for health insurance products. Because of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”), I knew that I had to make a decision, but I needed something affordable that could fit within our budget.

Nothing seemed to fit just right, but in my search, I ran across something totally different – Medical Cost Sharing Ministries. These are not health care or health insurance. But they are an affordable way to plan for unforeseen medical expenses. So, after doing some research, I joined a Health Sharing program and dropped my health insurance. It saves me thousands of dollars! Plus, these heath care sharing ministries are exempt from the requirements of the ACA mandate to purchase health insurance. That means I don’t have to pay a penalty!

health care sharing ministries

Now, just to be clear, Medical Cost Sharing is NOT “a cheap insurance program” or “a healthcare alternative”. It is something completely different. Keep reading, you’ll see what I mean.

A few of the major health care sharing ministries are:

  1. Christian Healthcare Ministries, this is the one we use and love it.
  2. Samaritan Ministries,
  3. Medi-Share, and
  4. Liberty Healthshare

Health Care Sharing Ministries – Explained

1. What are Medical Cost Sharing Ministries?

Boiled down, medical cost sharing, or health sharing ministries, are a group of like-minded individuals that agree to come together and help each other pay their medical expenses. They offer faith-based programs for planning for unforeseen medical expenses. They’re not for everyone, but they are definitely worth exploring!

Since it is not health insurance, they don’t have to play by the same rules. For instance, since there are no network requirements, you can go to whatever doctor you like. Once you enroll, you get a membership card, and when your doctor asks for your insurance, you can just give them your card. For many of the above programs, it will be processed in the same way.

On the rare occasion that the doctor will not accept your membership, these health sharing programs do pay in cash. That means you can always get reimbursed if you choose to stay with that doctor and pay out of pocket.

2. How do they work?

Basically, everyone pays in a certain monthly share amount, and for your own expenses, you are responsible for covering an “annual personal responsibility”, or “unshared amount” (like a deductible). Then, the rest of your medical expenses are shared among the group from what they have paid in – in many cases up to $1 million per incident! Here’s a brief video explanation that might help.

3. Are there Restrictions?

Yes. Since they are faith-based ministries, they do have different guidelines (like smoking, or certain pre-existing health or lifestyle-related conditions). In which case they will decline membership.

I know Liberty Healthshare does take people with pre-existing health conditions – they accept about 97% of them. These types of conditions may be handled in a few different ways. The condition may be phased in. If that’s the case, members do not share costs for that condition during the first year.  Then during years two and three of membership, members share up to $50,000 of eligible expenses to treat that condition. However, some pre-existing conditions might never be shareable. You can always just call an ask.

4. Are there programs for families?

Yes! They have programs for the entire family. Your family can participate in a very comprehensive option for under $500 a month, which is a maximum. There is a range of options less expensive than that depending on how much you want shared.

For me, my children tend to go to the doctor more frequently, so they have a health insurance plan for them, and we use a medical cost-sharing ministry since we go to the doctor less frequently. But there are options that do include wellness visits.

5. What is the difference between the health care sharing ministries?

All four of the above medical cost sharing ministries are very similar, but there are some differences among them. The largest differences are in their acceptance guidelines, if they process medical bills electronically or not, and if they allow cost sharing of alternative or natural treatments.

Beyond that, I found this FAQ extremely helpful. It had a very informative and clear answer for every question I could even think of asking.

If you are looking for an affordable way to handle your medical expenses, a health sharing ministry could be just what you need.


  • Hi, very interestIngrid!
    So if you use health share for your husband and yourself, what insurance you use for your kids?

    • Hi Ola, here in NYS, we have a great program for children that we qualify for since we are self-employed. But, many of my friends have their kids on sharing plans too, and it works out great.

  • After years of research and fear of pulling of the trigger, we joined Christian Healthcare Ministries. I love the mission and the people I have interacted with so far. We recently dealt with some heath problems with our son so will see how it all works out with payment/submitting bills. Thanks for this article!

    • I would love to know how it worked out for you getting reimbursed. We are thinking of joining CHM and are really concerned about it working.

      • You submit a claim with the medical bills, they walk you through it step by step. It’s pretty simple. Similiar to submitted a traditional medical claim.

  • Great article Lauren. I agree that Christian healthcare sharing ministries are a godsend to those without insurance, who would also otherwise have to pay the penalty.

    My husband and I signed up for one just before I got pregnant and it’s been amazing. Before we hit the deductible they still negotiated a lot of each of our bills, and we pay so much less than the e-surance quotes.

    I hope it’s OK that I give a link to the site I found on Google when I was looking between two of these, Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share. It broke down exactly how Medi-Share worked and how much I would pay:

    I’m sure Liberty, Samaritan and the others work very well too.

  • Jeff,
    Each plan has its own way of covering surgeries, so you will want to read their websites to see the details. Four of the major plans are listed at the beginning of this article. Of course, you can call each plan too with specific questions that you might have.

    • I am an independent contractor me and my husband in Fort Lauder dale … I did not see coverage in my area …which company does it here please

  • Hi I’m interested am a type 2 diabetic only go to doc 4 times a year generally healthy live in Wisconsin who can I find in this network of sharing

    • Honestly, if you only go to the doctor four times a year it might be easier to just pay out of pocket. Your average doctor’s visit costs $200 or so depending on the degree of your illness, and if you’re in good shape and only need things like blood pressure medication and insulin to be prescribed that would be the cheaper route. When filling your prescriptions you can use the GoodRX website to find the best deals on all of your medications too. If I used my insurance to pay for all of my medications I would have to pay around $380 per month, but by paying out of pocket I actually end up spending less than $100. That’s just my opinion though, and you should ALWAYS ask for a paper prescription for each individual medication so that you can fill it at a certain pharmacy and get the best discounts. I might have to go to 4 pharmacies each month, but they’re all within a 2 mile radius and I can just drive around and pick them all up the same day.

      • The trouble is, in some states, a physician is required to call in a prescription (that is the case in NY), and you can’t take your paper prescription wherever you want to. In those states, you will have to do the research ahead of time to find the best prices and let your physician know which pharmacy to call. After I joined a cost sharing ministry, I had to do a lot of research to find the cheapest price for meds I have to take daily. Costco pharmacy was by far the cheapest, but GoodRx will occasionally send coupons that I can still use at Costco to lower my cost even more.

      • If you live in a state that the Rx has to be called in, just pick one to have the doctor send it to. Then once you’ve done your research on prices, have it transferred from the original pharmacy to the one that is cheaper. I have done that before and actually, Kroger even matched the price on one of them so I didn’t have to go to 2 different pharmacies.

      • we just call different pharmacies using good RX and ask for prices up front. then if the prescription requires a doctors call , we call the doctors office back and ask them call that particular pharmacy.

  • Loved reading this! I am already a member of Liberty Healthshare and have been pleased. I was paying 1200 – 2K per month for 15 years for bcbsil insurance that I was barely able to use and unable to recoup my costs as my husband is a type 1 diabetic. I was thinking that maybe I was missing something – I am a bit skeptical about everything and being a business owner in Illinois isn’t helping. Thank you for the vote and for going out on a ledge with this subject.

    • Michele – does LIberty Health Share really allow type 1 diabetes in their phase-in pre-existing plan? We need to find a plan and are looking at this but wondering about this as he is a type 1 diabetic.

    • I have been looking into the Healthshare plans and leaning toward Liberty Healthshare after reading many articles. Very interested in hearing the pros and cons from those with experience with Liberty and input on the other Healthshare plans.

      Thank you,

      • I’ve been using Liberty Health Share for a year now and am still learning the ins and outs, but have been very pleased so far. I have a pre-exisiting condition (epilepsy) and take daily meds to prevent seizures. I only see my neurologist once a year for check-ups. My doctor visit this year will go toward my annual unshared amount (the ‘deductable’ part of the plan) and next year (after being a member for 24 months) my regular check ups will be able to be shared. (The longer you stay a member, the better the benefits become.) My neurologist was willing to work with my plan and gave me the self-pay discount. It took me six months of researching and talking with a very helpful Liberty Healthshare representative before we dove in. I’m so glad we did. We save about $800 a month from the insurance plan we had before. I share the plan with our son because my husband has insurance coverage through his job.

      • I am a Liberty member and couldn’t be happier. From the big things like reimbursement to the little things like talking on the phone with a real person, not someone who reads from a screen.

  • I rarely need medical services, am 57 in good health, non-tobacco, average weight. I have had a heart attack 3 years ago and one stent inserted by a cath. Would this pre-existing condition probably prevent acceptance?

  • Good Article for those curious about Health Share Ministries. I want to do a deep dive into the history of this type of coverage, I understand there are over 100 (how do I find them), costing analysis, and customer satisfaction, and what to watch for. I’m having a hard time finding more than 7 active Health Share Ministries. Do you have a suggestion?

  • Good article and good comments! My wife and I are members of Samaritan Ministries, and we love it and the people in it. I don’t think I would ever want to leave it.

    But my question is connected with Len’s above. A practicing psychologist in our church asked me this morning if there were any health cost sharing organizations out there that are NOT specifically Christian. She has a client who claims to be an atheist and who wanted to know about this. I told our friend that I wasn’t aware of any, and that I didn’t know whether such a non-Christian organization could in fact succeed, as a matter of principle. But I said I would inquire. Anybody know? Thanks.

  • We have been contemplating switching to a medical cost sharing coverage. It is really hard to make the switch. We still have one child on our insurance and she is graduating from college this year. We are self employed in electrical contracting and now pay over $2000/ month for insurance through the IBEW. Far higher than we should for our household budget, even as a business expense. We live in Alaska and I believe there is now only one other option, also exorbitant for far less – our current plan is one of the ‘Cadillac plans’. We are in our late 50’s, very healthy, work out, super physically active, but I have had melanoma and I have a lifelong well managed thyroid condition – neither of these are lifestyle related and I am very proactive about managing both. Still, it sounds like they would be considered ‘pre-existing’. Hence, one reason we have been hesitant to change but the current costs are becoming more and more financially incapacitating.

    • Stay away from Medical Cost Sharing, INC. I believe this is a fraudulent company with very poor business practices.

  • Hi, I am also trying to look at the comparison chart and the links are not working for me. Any suggested solutions?

  • Can you send me the link directly to my email? I am having the same problem with opening the link above for the comparison chart.

  • Please send me the link to the chart as well. I’m going to advise Health Sharing plans for our whole staff.

  • Ready to dump my $800/mo BCBS with $5K deductible, but the Comparison Chart link still isn’t working. Can you please send to my email?

    • Yes, check out Sedera Health sharing, the work with employers and direct Primary care doctors.

  • And the link for the comparison chart is still not working! I am very interested to know however in reading some of these comments I think Liberty may be our best option. My husband is self employed and I don’t work but am trying for a self employed business myself and we can’t afford Obamacare as we don’t qualify for subsidy.

  • Can you please fix the hyperlinks in this blog? Health Sharing Programs: The Complete Guide to Medical Cost Sharing.

    I would really appreciate it! Thank you!

  • The link to the comparison chart is not working, and apparently no one is responding to posts on Lauren’s website anymore.

  • The Christian Health Care sharing groups are discriminatory. If you are Jewish they force you to say you believe in Jesus and don’t care if you follow the original old testament. Pretty nasty I must say.

  • My experience with Liberty is that they will negotiate lower bills for you on routine dr visits but when an expensive ER visit happens they don’t pay it, or more specifically in my case they give you a complete runaround and after a year the bill is still not paid. Meanwhile, they’re still taking in my monthly tribute for someone else, but they’re not paying my medical bill. So, there is this feeling that you are covered, but in fact, you’re not.

    • Just replying to my own post. So….Liberty and the collection agency have been going back/forth for a few months now. Meanwhile my credit report has collections activity reported from this……Thanks Liberty!!

    • Steve — I had a nasty argument with Med Solutions ( the second tier of Lib Share ) Med Solutions took care of my 2018 Jan bill about a month ago! Good Luck!!

  • Can anyone advise on Dr rates? As with traditional plans, drs have contracted rates that the ins co pays. With this type of plan and/or paying cash have members been able to negotiate the same rate as traditional plans? I’ve begun contacting my drs for their policies just curious to hear individual experiences as well.

  • Just replying to my own post. So….Liberty and the collection agency have been going back/forth for a few months now. Meanwhile my credit report has collections activity reported from this……Thanks Liberty!!

    Steve — That also happened to us and Liberty had them erase the collections! I hope they do the same for you!

  • Wow, I just want to cry, everything is so expensive and pre-existing illness makes it impossible, praying to God He sends a miracle. Even the State has us locked into some expensive plan instead of medicaid, none of this is possible, disabled folks until they get government help are out of luck especially with expensive medication. Daughter’s coverage ends tomorrow and hopefully a miracle worker on Monday can do something, with me on Medicare the only reason I can go to the doctor is that my mother left us some money, that is going fast with car repairs. Please pray hard. Thank you.

  • I cannot get reimbursed by Liberty HealthShare after a year of me phone calling, sending in the documents they request, talking to multiple supervisors, managers and member service reps who all say they see and understand the problem and will reprocess the claim. This is a claim I paid cash for at time of service over a year ago for a mammogram which should have been 100% covered, and I have not yet been reimbursed. It has been very frustrating. They are very good at taking out my money each month and sharing others medical bills, yet I cannot get reimbursed. I am looking for another insurance or possibly Samaritan Ministries. Let me know if you have expereince with Samaritan. Thank you!

    • Hi Kate, I have Libertyshare too. Been trying to get paid since December 2018 for a wellness visit and some other items related to that visit that has always been paid for in the past. Luckily I paid for them at the time, or I would be in collections I am sure. I keep getting the runaround that my bills are “in process”, and they had a computer/software system change that made the company way behind. I’m now tired of the delays and looking for another company as well.

    • My family is in the same boat as you. We have 10s of 1000s of dollars in medical charges for unexpected health emergencies that we correctly submitted to LHS as required. We have been waiting for over 10 months for those to be addressed by LHS. Here it is Christmastime and I just received a past due notice from the hospital for ~$18,000. Not a happy holiday thanks to LHS. Check out (I am not affiliated with them) for more information on health sharing ministries. I wish LHS was reliable, but it really isn’t anymore.

  • Nice Blog!
    I really liked the information given in this blog. It’s a complete guide on how to save money with Medical Cost Sharing ministries. Last month, I got an innovative health benefit solution from Scoop Health. It really helped me with all my medical needs.

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