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Faith-based Health Plans - How They Compare to Private Insurance

Published 7/29/2008

In a time when so many Americans are living without health insurance due to escalating costs or loss of employment, people are exploring alternatives to private health insurance that, while not comprehensive, can pay for catastrophic injuries or illnesses. Faith-based healthcare plans cover healthcare services for parishioners who are members of Evangelical Christian churches.

Many faith-based healthcare plans will either provide an affordable plan through a church or give donations to needy church members with healthcare needs. Some of the organizations provide both. Churches will contact organizations like Medi-Share to set up a program for their members. Members of a particular congregation can join the faith-based plan by making a monthly donation of $459 per month and receive payment for their medical bills to cover expenses from $250 to one million dollars. Members must adhere to the requirements of the organization like no cigarette smoking, no homosexual lifestyles, and no extramarital affairs.

These plans will not cover certain procedures or care that other secular plans might like AIDS treatment or abortion. The biggest complaint that critics have is that these organizations are not regulated by the government because they operate as nonprofit organizations. Not only that, gay rights activists are quick to point out that at the foundation of Christianity is the acceptance of all people, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. In organizations that do not provide AIDS treatment on moral grounds, advocates ignore the fact that AIDS can be contracted other than by homosexual contact.

Pastors must approve each parishioner to become a member by vouching that the potential member regularly attends services and participates in Church activities. Though the cost of these faith-based plans is significantly less than purchasing health insurance privately, some say that the drawbacks outnumber the benefits. Churches do not have to be of a specific faith like Presbyterian or Baptist, but most of the nonprofit organizations require that the Churches involved be considered of an Evangelical Christian faith. The organizations operate on donations from Church members and outside sources, but the majority of incoming donations do go directly to pay for medical expenses of Church members.

One of the most popular organizations is a group called Medi-Share Biblical Healthcare Solutions. This group requires members to send monthly donations to benefit the entire Church community. For example, even if a member did not go to the doctor or hospital, have any procedures or tests done in any given month, the organization still requires a monthly contribution. That contribution will be included with all other Church contributions for the month and allocated to those that need it. Medi-Share provides prescription saving coupons and access to a number of healthcare professionals for over-the-phone advice. Nevertheless, the group does not put any restrictions on which hospital or doctor a member can see. For Evangelical Christians that feel they live a lifestyle recommended by their Church, these plans can be more affordable than private insurance and provide a way to contribute to their Church community. Faith-based health plans can be a life-saver for those without other health insurance options.

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