When I left my job at Boeing almost three years ago, Hubby and I gave up a stellar health care package. It cost us very little each month – we only had a 10% coinsurance, and our deductible was $2,500 (not cheap by any means, but low compared to most private insurance plans). After leaving, I immediately went onto COBRA. That carried us for 18 months and came at the cost of $1,300 a month (ouch!).
Once COBRA expired, I hit up the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. I wrongly assumed that the Affordable Care Act actually meant affordable health care. I also wrongly assumed that we would easily find a better option (ie cheaper) than COBRA. Boy was I wrong – on all counts!
Although Hubby makes a good salary, it doesn’t go as far as one might think as a family of four living in the Seattle area (hello high cost of living). I was so certain that we would qualify for a discount with our monthly premiums, and I was finally right – we did. But even with the discount, the cheapest plan we could find was $1,000 a month. That plan came with a 30% coinsurance and a $14,000 deductible. Yes, you read that right – $14,000! That means we would be paying $26,000 every year before insurance picked up a dime. How is that affordable?! If the average middle-class American family can afford that every year, then I must be living under a rock because that is news to me!
Upon making this discovery, I immediately started job searching. I didn’t think I had any other option. Hubby’s job doesn’t provide paid health insurance and we couldn’t go without it. One evening, I was venting to a friend and she asked if I had ever heard of health sharing. I hadn’t, so she spent some time explaining to me how it works. Feeling hesitant, but optimistic, I began researching the different Health Sharing programs available. I didn’t think any program could really be as comprehensive (and affordable) as she had made it seem. However, as I dug deeper into how these programs work, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful. Discovering health sharing was a total game changer. It’s unfortunate that more people don’t know of its existence!
Liberty Health Share
After extensive research, we decided to enroll with Liberty Health Share. There are many options out there, so it helps to do some research and read reviews about what each program offers. With Liberty, we pay $491 each month for coverage. Our deductible (called an annual unshared amount) is only $1,500 for all four of us – cheaper than even Boeing offered! After we meet that amount, we pay absolutely nothing. That’s right – we pay zero, zilch, nada – as long as the terms of our agreement covers the expense. That means at most we pay $7,392 annually and not a penny more! That’s far more affordable than the $26,000 offered through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange! Plus, we can go to any doctor we want – there’s no network. Health sharing is an amazing option for anyone in need of private insurance.
How It Works
Each month, health sharing members pay a contribution (ours is $491) into a shared account that goes towards the benefit of all members. Similar to regular health insurance, members must reach their deductible (or annual unshared amount) before Liberty picks up the tab. However, members are considered self-pay by medical facilities, so a significant discount is generally applied to each bill (similar to how insurance companies negotiate lower out-of-pocket costs for their members). Once the member’s deductible has been reached, Liberty takes money from the shared account to pay all covered expenses on the member’s behalf.
The Fine Print
One thing to keep in mind is that health sharing is not health insurance. Because the programs are religious in nature, they are given a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act. However, this also means that they are not bound by the same requirements of ACA provided health care. That means many health sharing programs do not cover pre-existing conditions or costs associated with high-risk behavior. Before opting into a health sharing network, make sure you read the fine print. Fully understand what the program covers. Also keep in mind that many programs have annual or lifetime limits on expenses. However, if the plan is a good fit, this can be such a wonderful option for health coverage.
Liberty Health Share does not cover dental, which is not unlike regular health insurance. Last year we were paying $187 to Delta Dental each month for our coverage. This year, we did a little more research and found that Costco also offers dental insurance through Delta Dental. The cost is only $538 each year – a little under $45 a month for our entire family (they also offer vision, health, and life insurance)! You do have to use specific in-network providers, and there are flat rates associated with each service. For example, office visits are $10, cleanings are $20, x-rays are $12, etc. However, even factoring those costs into the monthly rate, we are still coming out ahead (approximately $87 a month as opposed to $187 – a savings of $100 monthly). Costco dental insurance also covers orthodontics, has no deductible, and no annual maximum – all amazing benefits! You do have to be a member, but at only $60 a year for membership, that’s a small price to pay for what you get!
Side note: To offset the cost of the office visits, cleanings, and other related expenses, determine the amount your family will need and divide by 12. Then budget that amount into your monthly costs and set the money aside in a savings account (private or HSA). That way when you get your dental bill you don’t feel the pinch because the money is already there for that purpose!
Many families qualify for financial assistance through their local medical organizations and don’t even know it. At a recent appointment, the receptionist provided me with paperwork to apply for financial assistance. With Hubby’s salary, I never thought we would qualify so I hadn’t bothered looking into it. After reading through the requirements and applying, we were granted a 90% discount on all our bills – 90%! We are only responsible for 10% of all our bills and that is after the self-pay discount has been applied. The main takeaway – always look into financial assistance programs even if you think you won’t qualify.
Health sharing programs can be a lifesaver for families needing low-cost, affordable health care. Just be diligent in your research. Make sure you understand exactly how the program works and what medical expenses the program covers. Also, never stop looking into your options! If I had stopped researching, I may never have heard of health sharing, stumbled upon the Costco dental plan, or known that our family qualifies for medical financial assistance. All of these programs have made health care affordable for our family, allowing me to continue staying home with my kiddos – and for me, that is worth every penny!
Interested in similar content? Find out how we save for Christmas here: How We Save $1400 for Christmas – The Easy & Painless Way