Health care sharing ministry offers insurance alternative

| Jonathan Liedl | July 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

When Cathy Deeds found out about the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the pro-life policy consultant bristled at the idea of participating in an insurance plan that included coverage of abortifacients and contraception.

So Deeds sought an alternative.

But when she discovered CURO, an initiative of the Christ Medicus Foundation that partners with a national network of Christians to share health care expenses and spiritual support, she found more than just a refuge for her conscience; she found a comprehensively Catholic approach to health care.

“I think of it like a family,” said Deeds, who is a parishioner at St. Raphael’s in Crystal and joined CMF CURO in February. “We have the same beliefs and we take care of each other.”

It’s a biblical-based alternative to health insurance that is starting to catch on among Catholics, with 14 households participating in Minnesota alone.

“They’re looking for something else,” said Louis Brown, the director of the health care sharing initiative, which was established in October of 2014 and now includes over 400 households in 42 different states.

Brown describes CMF CURO as a “voluntary community of Christians nationwide,” that provides financial support directly to individuals and families in need, as opposed to paying premiums to an insurance company. CMF CURO partners with Samaritan Ministries International, a broader Christian health care sharing network with more than 120,000 members across the country.

“It’s an opportunity to engage in the act of charity, subsidiarity and actual solidarity,” said Brown.

In addition to the monthly share payments, members like Deeds receive something else that clients are unlikely to find in any large insurance company’s health plans: a request for prayers.

“I put [the prayer request] in my Magnificat and really try to do it and bring it to adoration,” said Deeds. “I’m finding that it’s really beautiful.”

But for Deeds, all this would be for naught if CMF CURO membership didn’t make sense financially. And for her, it does, she said. There are four different membership categories that determine the amount of the monthly contribution: singles 25 and under, singles over 25, married without children and married with children. As a single woman over 25, Deeds pays about $250 a month, a rate that she says is less expensive than her premium was when she paid for insurance out of pocket.

While CMF CURO members share health expenses with the broader SMI network, there are unique benefits to joining the health care sharing ministry through the Catholic organization. Members receive a CMF CURO membership debit card that Brown says adds “extraordinary convenience and efficiency,” as it allows members to be processed at the health care provider “as if they have health insurance.”

Additionally, CMF CURO members work with dedicated service pricing administrators, who assist them in negotiating reasonable prices with health care providers.

Life-affirming care

Deeds said there is a lot she still has to learn about the process, and she has yet to have a “publishable need,” a medical expense that qualifies for financial support according to the organization’s guidelines. But since becoming a member of CMF CURO, she’s taken ownership of her health care in a way she didn’t when she used conventional insurance.

“It’s very eye-opening, and has helped me make better choices with my health care,” she said, noting members of the ministry take a pledge to avoid unhealthy habits, such as smoking and excessive drinking.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of CMF CURO is the fact that share payments only go toward expenses that are consistent with life-affirming principles. Additionally, because of their association with SMI, members are exempt from the Affordable Care Acts’ individual mandate, as the mandate doesn’t apply to members of health care sharing ministries that have existed for 15 or more years.

Brown emphasized that the creation of CMF CURO was a response to the new evangelization and the call to “reflect God’s love,” not a defensive move against the individual mandate and the threat it poses to religious liberty. Nonetheless, he recognizes the connection between the two.

“The Catholic community is responding very favorably to CMF CURO right now because of the [individual] mandate,” he said.

While Brown says that protecting one’s conscience and witnessing to the new evangelization are “invaluable,” he recognizes that CMF CURO may not be for everyone. For instance, expenses related to preexisting or chronic conditions are not covered; nor are preventative procedures.

But for “individuals and families who are seeking to practice their Catholic faith in health care, and who health care sharing makes sense, yes, any perspective risk is worth the beauty of Christian health care sharing, 100 percent,” Brown said.

For her part, Deeds is a big proponent of CMF CURO and would love to see health care sharing ministries as an alternative offered by Catholic businesses and non-profits to their employees.

“It’s a win-win for families and individuals who want a faith-based approach to health care totally consistent with a culture of life,” she said.


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