Religious vs. Secular Health Sharing Plans
Nationwide, thousands of people are opting out of overpriced medical insurance products, and instead choosing these more affordable, non-profit, community-based alternatives to help manage escalating healthcare costs.
Health sharing plans are descended from the mutual aid societies that date back to the 1700s in the United States, and which came to prominence around the turn of the 20th century.
Then, as now, many of these fraternal benefit societies were religiously affiliated – but by no means all of them.
Health sharing plans in their modern form date back to the 1980s. And today, consumers can choose from a wide spectrum of religious health sharing communities.
Many health sharing organizations operating today are religious in nature, and some expressly affiliated with particular religious sects – including plans created to serve the Jewish, Catholic, and Anabaptist communities.
Some of these health sharing ministries require verifiable regular attendance at religious services as a condition of membership. Others simply ask members to agree to their statement of values or faith before joining.
Other health sharing organizations are specifically Christian, but otherwise non-denominational, other than requiring members profess belief in the divinity of Christ and the Triune God.
Others simply require members to profess faith in a higher power, but have no other religious requirements.
And still other health sharing plans are completely secular. They just ask members to share a commitment to helping out fellow members in need.
You are free to choose the health share plan you believe best aligns with your personal values.
We are completely neutral: Our job at HSA for America is to listen to what your values are, and help you find the very best match for your personal beliefs.
This blog will discuss the differences between directly religiously-affiliated health share plans, non-denominational plans, and secular plans, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
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Religious Health Sharing Plans
Religious plans typically align with specific faiths or denominations. They often require members to adhere to a certain set of religious beliefs or practices.
- Community Support – These plans foster a strong sense of community, with members sharing similar values and beliefs. In some areas, many members of your local church or synagogue may also be fellow members of your health sharing plan. You are literally helping support and receiving support from your neighbors in times of crisis due to medical bills.
- Affordability – Typically, religious health sharing plans are more affordable than traditional insurance products for those who don’t qualify for a subsidy. They are not, however, intrinsically cheaper than other secular or non-denominational health share plans.
- Restricted Coverage – Some plans may not cover procedures or medications that don’t align with their religious or moral beliefs. (e.g., abortion, in vitro fertilization, gender reassignment surgery, or drug and alcohol addiction treatment services).
- Specific Eligibility Requirements – Members typically sign a statement agreeing to uphold specified religious beliefs and live a particular lifestyle in order to participate.
Religious Health Sharing Plan Options:
- Altrua – Focus on living a clean and healthy lifestyle in accordance with ethical and religious beliefs. Members must sign a Statement of Standards that includes adhering to basic bible-based morality. However, there is no requirement to be an active member of any church.
- Medi-Share – Christian-based with a strong emphasis on Biblical principles. It requires members to adhere to a Statement of Faith consistent with those beliefs.
- OneShare Health – Christian-oriented with a commitment to Biblical scripture and the power of prayer. However, it is available to anyone who will sign the Statements of Beliefs and doesn’t require adherence to any specific religion.
- netWell – Provides a Statement of Religious and Ethical Beliefs that includes a belief in the God of the Bible and the power of prayer, duty to love and accept one another, obligation to live a healthy lifestyle, and responsibility to carry each other’s burdens.
Note: While some of the above health sharing plans may be open to members of any faith, they still operate based on specific religious principles. If you prefer a plan that does not have a strong religious affiliation, you may want to research a more secular plan.
Secular Health Sharing Plans
Secular programs are designed for those who prefer a non-religious approach but still want the benefits of a health sharing community. Some attractive features of these more secular health sharing plans include:
- Inclusive Approach – Secular plans are generally open to any individuals and do not have a faith requirement. This allows for a larger and more inclusive membership base.
- Wider Range of Coverage – They may cover a broader range of medical procedures and treatments.
- Flexible Guidelines – These plans often have more flexible guidelines regarding lifestyle choices and medical treatments.
Secular Health Sharing Plan Options:
- HSA SECURE – Welcomes members of all faiths and focuses on community ethics and health consciousness without a specific religious orientation. This is an HSA-eligible health sharing option, currently available only to members who are verifiable business owners, independent contractors, or those with verifiable self-employment income.
- CARE+ – Welcomes members of all faiths and focuses on community ethics and health consciousness without a specific religious orientation. This plan is not HSA-eligible, but otherwise almost identical to HSA SECURE, except it does not include cost sharing certain screening procedures (mammograms and colonoscopies). This low-cost plan is designed to be available to all applicants, not just business owners, independent contractors, and the self-employed.
- Sedera – Has no religious affiliation, but emphasizes community, personal accountability, and healthy living.
- Universal – Has no specific religious affiliation, but provides a Statement of Shared Faith and Principles that highlights the dignity of every person, importance of community, interdependence, and making responsible health choices.
Understanding the specific terms, conditions, and guiding principles of each plan is essential when choosing the one that aligns best with your personal beliefs and healthcare needs.
Health Share Plans vs. Insurance
While health sharing plans are not insurance, they have some advantages over traditional insurance.
Most health share plans allow individuals to join at any time throughout the year. They often have lower monthly costs, and allow members to choose their own healthcare providers without the restrictions of a network.
Many encourage preventive care and healthy living, which can contribute to better health and lower healthcare costs overall.
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Need Help Deciding?
Choosing between religious and secular health sharing plans depends on your personal beliefs, healthcare needs, and budget. Both offer unique advantages, and possible disadvantages.
Connect with a Personal Benefits Manager to answer any questions you may have, and to help navigate the specific terms and conditions of all your plan options.
Wiley is President of HSA for America. He believes that consumers should have choice and price transparency, so they can make the best healthcare decisions for their needs. Read more about Wiley on his Bio page.