Oklahomans use Healthcare Sharing Ministries

Oklahomans use Healthcare Sharing Ministries

Quick Facts:

  • People who don't like the government requiring they have insurance, don't want to pay expensive premiums and don't want to face a federal penalty are exploring other options
  • FOX23 found out about healthcare sharing ministries some families in Green Country say allows them to have their medical bills covered without having insurance and without facing a fine

Families in Green Country are having their healthcare costs taken care of while legally avoiding the federal penalty for not having insurance.
They're part of healthcare sharing ministries that help people pay medical bills without paying insurance costs.

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READ MORE: Popular Healthcare Sharing Ministries 
One family told FOX23 that being self-employed made traditional health insurance costs too expensive.
"I think it was between $600-800 a month. Then our deductible was going to be about $6,000, which is just crazy," said Susan Shockley.
Instead, she and her husband pay $300 a month to Liberty Health Share, one of a handful of religious-based Healthcare Sharing Ministries.
Their websites all state that it's not insurance, but it's a cost sharing arrangement between members across the country.
Here's how it works:

  • organization sets an amount that individuals, couples and families pay each month
  • that amount is matched with another member's medical bills for approved expenses

This month, the Shockleys are helping a couple named Carron and Scott.

"Instead of my money going to an insurance company and going into a pool or whatever, I actually know where my money is going, which is very nice," said Shockley.
"It's neighbor helping neighbor," said Dale Bellis, executive director of Liberty Healthshare.
Bellis answered FOX23's questions from his office in Ohio using Skype.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Healthcare sharing
"Are there any procedures that Liberty Healthshare will not cover?" FOX23's Shae Rozzi asked.
"Abortion is one of the expenses that we do not share in. There are some cosmetic surgeries that we don't, the results of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. We do not. So that would be three examples of some of the bills we don't share in," he said.
"How does this medical sharing avoid the federal penalty?" Rozzi asked.

READ MORE: Healthcare Sharing in Affordable Care Act
"Thankfully embedded in the Affordable Care Act is an exemption for healthcare sharing," said Bellis.
Bellis said the costs are spread across thousands of families across the United States. He says they've denied some applicants if their medical expenses were too high at the time they tried to sign up.
"I've been in office for 5 years, and we've had no complaints or consumer issues relative to these since the time I've come into office. And I take a lot of complaints on a daily basis and look for these things," said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak.
Doak did note that healthcare sharing ministries are not regulated, there's no oversight, and since it's not insurance, there's little his office could do to help if there was a problem.
"When you're insured, you have recourses to come to the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID). These types of sharing arrangements, you don't come to the OID. You'd probably go to your Better Business Bureau or through court action," said Doak.
The Shockleys have faith it will work for them.

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"I know one day when I need it, the money will be there to take care of me," she said.
One of the ways the ministries keep costs down is that members can't use tobacco or illegal drugs, and they have to live by other Christian standards.