Guest post by Kate Phillips
“It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”
— Thomas Sowell
If you’re frustrated with your health insurance or worried about healthcare in the U.S., you’re not alone. By November of 2016, according to Money.CNN.com, more Americans disapproved than approved of the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka, Obamacare. Gallup polls showed that 65% more Americans felt they were hurt by the policy than helped by it, amongst those who felt they were affected by it. And that was before the 2018 plans were revealed and outlets such as CNBC reported that 2018 premiums would rise by an average of 34%.
Dissatisfaction with limited choices, escalating costs and government-mandates made “repeal and replace” one of the key parts of the political platform that propelled Donald Trump into the White House—even if Congress has yet to actually agree upon a plan to do so. And with Washington’s seeming inability to either fix or replace the ACA, fretting about the uncertain future of healthcare or how you’re going to insure your family—particularly for the self-employed, business owners, or anyone not covered by an employer plan—is the new national pastime.
I’ve heard it said that you should never complain about a problem without offering a solution. In that spirit, Kim Butler asked if I could share my own healthcare story and describe the SOLUTION I found—that’s saving me nearly $3,000 per year at minimum—and why it might work for you, too. In this two-part article series, I’ll also include a review of Liberty HealthShare—the pros and cons—and describe who may be a good fit for the health insurance alternative known as healthcare sharing ministries or medical bill sharing.
Why I Wanted an Alternative to the “Affordable” Care Act
I have been self-employed for many years and have paid for my own insurance plans obtained through a broker. When the ACA was implemented, the plan I was on ended and was replaced with something my company said was “similar.” Still a Bronze plan, it was slightly more expensive with a significantly higher deductible but covered similar things. Then, premiums and deductibles continued to rise—while each year, benefits eroded noticeably.
By 2015, my premiums had nearly doubled, and my deductible had TRIPLED. My co-pays had also doubled, and—reading the fine print of the new policy benefits (or lack of) for the next year—I realized co-pays were essentially disappearing. In 2016, my insurance plan would now only cover preventative exams unless my $6500 deductible was met—in addition to premiums.
The bottom line: After my annual exam and mammogram, in 2016, I would pay for ALL of my medical costs unless I hit the point where I had shelled out well over $11k in premiums plus deductible. Up to $11,000 for the “benefit” of preventative exams? No thanks!
My heart sank. Even if I had NO medical expenses beyond the $4500 required premiums, that was $4500 I couldn’t use for supplements, yoga classes, and wellness care such as massage and chiropractic to stay healthy. For 2018, bronze plan premiums have adjusted upwards to $5297/year, or $441/month with a higher deductible of $7150… totaling an out-of-pocket risk of over $12,400.
Unfortunately, in my first two years of my ACA policy, I got to “test” my coverage through a couple of injuries. So I already knew what happens when I “need my insurance.” In addition to thousands in premiums, I paid nearly ALL of my own care for:
- x-rays and treatment for a broken foot
- rehabilitation from a sprained knee
- x-rays and specialist following a hand injury
- thyroid medication
- chiropractic care visits
- dermatologist visits for health (non-cosmetic) concerns.
And others had it worse. Friends who may have been older or wanting lower deductibles saw their policies balloon to over $600, even as much as $800/month to insure a single person. A health setback or surgery cost some friends upwards of $10k in one year.
The hardest hit has been middle class and self-employed folks who are self-insured with families and already pay their own 15.3% Social Security and Medicare tax—in addition to income taxes. If that’s you, your health insurance bill could now be more than $2,000 per month with an ACA plan, depending on the state you live in. And if you are a business owner who provides health insurance to employees, you have seen a significant rise in your costs, some of which may have been passed along to employees.
But not everyone had a negative experience. A few of my friends who earn low incomes working part-time or pursuing music, jewelry-making or photography instead of working full-time in higher-paying careers found themselves qualified for highly-subsidized plans. They were paying much less than I paid—for substantially better “silver” policies! I was honestly thrilled that they now had affordable health insurance, but it was demoralizing to find myself working extra hours to cover my own rising health care costs for a system that gave me “coverage” but little actual health care.
So now, we find ourselves in quite a situation: Middle-class families are suffering, most insurance co-ops have gone out of business, states are being drained of cash, and even those with subsidized insurance are discovering they can’t afford coverage anyway because almost nothing is covered until deductibles are met. I find it hard to argue with Jeff Jacoby’s conclusion in his Boston Globe article: Obamacare has already failed.
I was sold on the “benefits” of the Affordable Care Act when it was announced (more healthcare coverage for more people at a lower cost), but the reality has been something very different. There is truly no such thing as “free health care” or “cheap health insurance.” Even “government subsidy” is a misleading phrase, as the government actually has no money, other than what it extracts from citizens through taxes — or adds to the debt that burdens us all.
Give Me Liberty and Give Me Health!
When the 2016 policies rolled out with higher premiums and fewer benefits, I canceled my insurance. I just could no longer fathom paying so much for so little benefit. I was determined to find a health insurance alternative and a way to channel less money into insurance and more money into things that actually improve my health!
After much research, I discovered medical bill sharing programs—also known as healthcare sharing ministries or health care cost sharing—that offered an alternative. These seemed odd to me at first, as they weren’t traditional insurance at all. They were founded by various religious denominations, and some required attendance at Evangelical churches, along with adherence to strict behavior codes and statements of faith.
Then I found Liberty HealthShare, the health cost sharing program I joined 18 months ago. It is more inclusive, asking for a commitment to religious freedom, healthy living, and sharing health care costs with like-minded Americans. The website states that Liberty is “not health insurance,” but rather “made up of like-minded individuals who voluntarily share one another’s medical expenses.” They believe in the right of people to direct their own healthcare decisions “free from government dictates, restraints, and oversight.”
Although you may not have heard of it (or only recently), Liberty was pioneered by a Mennonite community over 2 decades ago and has recently tripled in size as more people have sought alternatives to ACA policies.
I love Liberty’s philosophy of helping Americans take responsibility for our own healthcare. It is affordable, it reduces financial risk, and it allows me to stop paying into a system I consider to be broken. I can now put money back into my pocket for self-care while knowing my contributions were paying healthcare bills for real people. (Sometimes I even receive the first names of those my dollars have helped: Shanna and Eric, Marcia, etc.) Best of all, I haven’t delegated my healthcare to government control, and I’m not worrying about what Congress will do next.
Health cost sharing eliminates insurance companies as middlemen and replaces them with an efficient system and the simple yet profound idea of people helping other people by sharing their medical bill burdens—literally and voluntarily—in an affordable way. These non-profit healthcare ministries are a testimony to the ways that everyday Americans can solve problems for themselves without government intrusion.
Although payments to health cost-sharing programs aren’t tax deductible and there are limitations such as waiting periods for full coverage of pre-existing conditions (more details in my next post), there are also many advantages to programs such as Liberty HealthShare.
7 Reasons I Quit Obamacare and Joined Liberty HealthShare:
1. Control: It’s is not dependent on the government, an insurance company, or an employer.
2. Freedom: No networks; I choose my doctors and specialists, and I can even share medical bills from health care in other countries!
3. Flexibility: No enrollment periods. (I joined in March of 2016.)
4. Affordable! My monthly share payments are 44% of what ACA plan premiums would be—$199 instead of $441 (an automatic savings of nearly $3,000) with an “annual unshared amount” (deductible) of $500 instead of $7,150.
5. Smart Savings: Medical bills are often significantly reduced, as members are considered cash-pay patients. Liberty helps me feel like I’m getting the best deal possible.
6. More Personal: It seems more personal than insurance. Many members appreciate the ministry foundation of the plans and the opportunity to post a note (via the website) or pray for the person whose bills you are helping with. Paying taxes or premiums is no fun, but helping “Dana” pay her bills gives me a sense of satisfaction!
7. Stewardship: I have a responsibility to take care of both my health and my finances. Every year, the Affordable Care Act stretched my budget and raised my financial risk further. I decided there MUST be a better option… and I’m glad that I found it! Now I can put more of my dollars into the things that keep me healthy, and fewer into “coverage” I can barely use.
In our next post, I’ll give you more details about Liberty as well as Health Cost Sharing programs in general, as well as run through some pros and cons of health sharing ministries.
Want to know more about Liberty HealthShare?
Explore the Liberty HealthShare website.
If you choose to get more information or sign up, I would appreciate if you tell them Kate Phillips Pritchard is your referral. (I don’t receive money for a referral, nor does Partners for Prosperity benefit in any way, but members can earn gift cards for referrals.)
Even better—simply fill out the form below and I will make the referral for you. Liberty HealthShare will then get in touch with further information. (I will not personally contact you, although you’ll receive a confirmation email with links to further information.)
(click here if you don’t see the form above)
This article is from Kate Phillips, our marketing coach and writer and founder of Total Wealth.
More Innovative Financial Solutions from Kate Phillips and Kim Butler:
Partners for Prosperity founder Kim Butler and Kate Phillips wrote Busting the Financial Planning Lies together in 2015, an ebook that details why typical financial advice is failing Americans, and how we can do better by building wealth outside of Wall Street, big banks, and the 401(k) machine. Get your copy as part of P4P’s complimentary Prosperity Accelerator Pack here.