Earlier this year, due to rising medical insurance costs I decided to opt out of the Affordable Care Act and go with a health sharing ministry called Liberty HealthShare. Liberty HealthShare is a unique alternative to medical insurance that allows members to share medical expenses up to a certain threshold.
There are 3 main types of memberships and I chose the middle option with coverage up to $125,000 per incident after my annual unshared amount of $500 is paid. An annual unshared amount (AUA) is comparable to a deductible or a portion of your medical expenses that you have to cover before you get help with paying the rest.
My membership fee or premium is about $131 per month and I’m sure that from the outside looking in, it sounds great that I would only have to worry about my monthly membership fee and a low AUA. Unfortunately, it’s not so black and white and there are plenty of pros and cons associated with having traditional medical insurance and choosing a health share ministry like Liberty HealthShare.
I wrote a review about my experience with Liberty HealthShare so far, and you can check it out if you want to learn more about the basics but today, I want to provide an update and talk more about the fine print and the underlying factors of this particular health sharing ministry from my personal perspective.
Ever since I posted my initial review about Liberty HealthShare, I’ve received numerous messages and questions about my experience and it’s become one of the most frequently viewed posts on this blog.
This is why deep down I realized that I just had to do an update as it seems like there’s so little information out there from a member’s point of view.
So I wanted to start my follow up by regretfully saying,
I Have Medical Bills
I just recently figured this out so everything is not finalized and I’m not positive how much I owe, but it’s clear as day that all my medical expenses have not been shared. At the end of June, I had a minor surgery and it was very emotionally draining so I had no time or energy to worry about payments or bills.
The hospital I went to did tell me they spoke with a Liberty HealthShare representative and it was decided that I bring $250 to pay on the day of the surgery. This wasn’t an issue as I was already prepared to pay out of pocket up until my AUA of $500 was reached.
The surgery went well, and I was able to jump right back into my life quickly after and Liberty HealthShare was in the furthest corner of my mind at the time.
Let’s rewind to April 2015. I went in to a local clinic for an annual exam after locating a provider who accepted Liberty HealthShare and I was asked to pay $110 for the initial visit. I never paid again for follow up visits. In May, I went to the emergency room for chest pains and gave the billing specialist my membership card. No payment was taken during this instance.
At the end of last month, I started receiving multiple bills in the mail with different dates and amounts and I was super confused. First there was a section that showed the expense that was billed, then a ‘repriced’ section, then a section that listed what I was responsible for.
Over the next few days, I tried to call someone at Liberty HealthShare to get some clarity on what these bills meant and what I needed to pay if anything.
Customer Service Was a Bit of a Drag
During the week I have very limited time to make business or personal related calls since I’m working in an office and I like to use my lunch time to actually eat or run errands. I tried calling customer service and the line was always busy. I would hold for a few minutes, then I’d be directed to voicemail.
Someone would always return my call, but it was a little frustrating because when they’d call back I was working so it was pretty much a game a game of phone tag for a while.
This week I was really determined to talk to someone so I dialed the extension for interested individuals who were considering membership and someone immediately picked up. Okay….. I told the man my situation and got transferred twice and I was finally able to get some help and clarity on my bills.
According to the representative on the phone, my bills were not completely entered into the system and finalized yet so they would have to follow up with me on what I owe. She also mentioned that I would be responsible for a few expenses since it was determined that they were pre-existing conditions.
Expenses For Pre-Existing Conditions Are Not Shared During the First Year of Membership
I don’t know how I missed this glaring fact. But during the first year of membership, any expenses related to pre-existing conditions that you have will most likely not be shared among members and you will be responsible for them yourself. During the second year, up to $25,000 is eligible and during the third year, $50,000 is eligible.
Honestly, I consider myself a very healthy person and wasn’t aware that I had any pre-existing conditions. I may have went to the doctor for a few minor things in the past, but I’ve never been hospitalized other than during the birth of my son and for my outpatient surgery in June.
The woman I talked to on the phone seemed understanding when I expressed my confusion about it to her and I may even dispute the decision they made but I will definitely look into it further.
You Can Dispute Decisions You Don’t Agree With
Liberty HealthShare urges members to give them a call if they don’t agree with medical expenses being ineligible or want to dispute anything (perhaps that explains the busy line 24/7, haha jk).
But on a serious note, these people don’t want to argue or get legally involved with anyone. They are more than willing to listen to your perspective and where you are coming from and it’s nice to have that option.
My Annual Unshared Amount Has Been Met…So What Does This Mean?
Apparently, I was told over the phone that my AUA was already met, but I’m sure this does not mean that any and every medical expense I have during the remainder of the year will be covered up to $125,000.
With traditional insurance or a health sharing ministry, there are loopholes in the system and it’s important to read the fine print about coverage and the sharing guidelines so you can know what to expect.
Liberty HealthShare covers the following medical services and expenses with a few exceptions:
- Hospital Charges
- Physicians Services
- Emergency Room
- Prescription Drugs
- Chiropractic Treatment
- Physical Therapy
- Home Health Care
- Naturopathic and/or Alternative Treatments
On their sharing guidelines document, there are at least 36 distinct medical related expenses that are not covered. The list includes: alcohol and drug services, supplies, care and treatment, breast implants, eye care, hearing aids and exams, infertility services, sterilization and more.
The Prescription Discounts Help
Don’t all discounts help? 🙂 Since prescription drugs aren’t a shared expense, Liberty HealthShare provides all members with a prescription discount card that helps lower the costs of prescribed medicines and other drugs. The great thing is that most pharmacy technicians are very familiar with it so they will scan your card and apply your savings with no questions asked and no hassle. I’ve used it a couple of times and saved a few dollars on my prescriptions.
Health Sharing Ministries Are Not the Answers to All Your Problems
I don’t mean to make this sound like a negative review or like I’m bashing Liberty HealthShare because that’s not my intention. I still stand by my reasons for choosing a health sharing ministry and I’m still content with staying with them throughout the remainder of the year.
I think it’s important to realize how healthcare works in this country and be willing to thoroughly look into your options instead of looking for an all-in-one solution. There is no such thing.
Maintaining proper health care and taking care of yourself should be a top priority and it’s important to consider setting a certain amount of money aside to cover medical expenses or beefing up your emergency fund with unexpected medical expenses in mind. I’ll be sure to provide an update about my bills though once everything is finalized. I hope it’s not too bad!
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What do you like or dislike about your current medical insurance provider. Would you ever consider joining a health sharing ministry?
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare expert or professional and all thoughts and opinions about Liberty HealthShare are my own. Before you decide on a coverage option, you should confirm that the plan includes care for any pre-existing conditions you might have and ensure that it aligns with your own ethics and belief system.
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