People who are picking their health insurance plan for next year need to do their homework if they are considering a health care-sharing ministry.
The end of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act isn't until December 15 and coverage for those plans doesn't begin until January 1 of 2018.
"As such, it's very important for consumers to explore all their options, look on-exchange, look off-exchange, look at health care-sharing ministries," says Kev Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket, an organization that performs and provides information on insurance.
"Make sure," says Coleman, "that you're making an informed decision that reflects the best alignment of the health plan's costs and benefits to your circumstances, your budget, your family's particular health care usage profile."
If you are considering joining a health care-sharing ministry, take note of the fact that it is not insurance, rather people sharing in one other's medical bills.
"So it's a different business model," says Coleman. "They're non-profits and they have different ways of being able to manage and spread the medical costs among their membership base."
Meanwhile, Coleman recommends people make sure that members of the health care-sharing ministries qualify for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act penalty for not having health coverage.
"There are four health care-sharing ministries that were founded prior to the year 2000, and that's rather important because those health care-sharing ministries, or the members, are exempt from the Affordable Care Act penalty for not having Obamacare insurance," he continues. "So if you are looking into health care-sharing ministry, you should clarify whether or not that ministry's members are exempt from the Obamacare penalty."
Health care-sharing ministries typically cover major medical benefits, such as doctor and specialist visits, emergency care, hospitalization, lab tests and medical imaging, Coleman advises.