Healthsharing ministries have such a strong relationship with religion, it’s no wonder many people assume that they must be religious to join one. While this may have been true in the past, it’s no longer the case. As healthcare costs rise, more and more pople are turning to healthsharing to save money and new companies have opened to meet demand. Religious healthshares still dominate the market, but people uninterested in a religious community do have some options.
Anyone doing a little research into healthsharing will find more than one company claiming to be the “oldest” or the “first” healthshare in the United States. The truth is a little more nebulous. Small religious communities throughout the country pitched in to help their members pay medical bills for decades–at least since the 1950s, if not earlier. This was informal, however, and a bit more like crowdfunding than the modern idea of healthsharing. The main similiarity to what we recognize today was the emphasis on sharing within their community; rather than trying to get help from strangers, people needing help received it from their friends and neighbors. Before the advent of the Internet, the likeliest places for people to find community were in their churches, schools, and community organizations. Also, prior to the internet becoming widespread, it was significantly harder to even ask for help outside of these local communities. Medical cost sharing, then, made sense, even if it was far less organized than we see today.
An instance often pointed to as the forerunner of modern healthsharing was when a church in Ohio pooled funds to help their pastor pay significant medical bills after being in an accident. This happened during the 1980s, and over the next couple of decades, dedicated healthsharing ministries began forming. It’s difficult to trace which of the current healthshares is actually the oldest still in operation, because many of the larger companies we recognize today formed after being merged with older, smaller ones (or purchased them outright, or the smaller company agreed to sponsor the new healthshare, etc.). While we can’t say for certain which ministry was “first”, there are several still operating that have been in business for at least twenty years–not a bad record at all! Currently, healthsharing ministries have over 1 million members.
How healthsharing has changed
Of course, this background pretty much explains why “healthsharing” and “religious” are tied together so strongly; you’d expect a concept that evolved from churches to retain its religious associations. And for decades, it did. But over time, costs for everything started to rise, and it became more and more difficult to get good health insurance through employers. These societal changes spurred the creation of larger healthshares, which accepted members outside of their immediate community. Over time, healthshares refined their model, and memberships grew to include members across the country.
Until the 2010s, however, healthsharing remained firmly affiliated with religious values. But with affordable healthcare becoming a bigger and bigger problem for more and more people, two cost sharing ministries began that didn’t require any statement of faith–Zion and Sedera.
Both companies do still have member standards. Those interested in joining need to agree to live a healthy lifestyle, avoid abuse (substance abuse, abuse of others, neglect/carelessness for their health, and so on), and be willing to help others in the community by sharing medical costs. Although both secular healthshares welcome all, regardless of religious affiliation, these membership standards are important because they help the companies keep costs low for all their members.
Zion and Sedera are two of the highest-rated healthshares operating today, so we’d like to finish today’s blog with a brief profile of each one. Hopefully, this will help any readers interested in a non-religious healthshare see if one might work better for them than the other.
Zion HealthShare, based in Saint George, Utah (you know, right outside Zion National Park), was founded in 2019 as a response to the overly-exclusive nature of other healthshares. Zion has grown to include members in all 50 states, and with no required provider network, Zion members can even use their membership while traveling abroad! All healthshares have waiting periods before pre-existing conditions are considered shareable, but Zion’s is shorter than some at 1 year. Additionally, the allowed sharing amount for those needs increases year by year, up to a maximum of $125,00 per need. There’s one more bit of good news, too; Zion’s member guidelines are really thorough and seem to do a good job explaining which costs would, and would not, be eligible for sharing. The final thing we like about Zion Healthshare is how it lets members choose their IUA level (in other words, how much members pay per-incident before the company steps in to help with sharing). We feel like $1,000 per incident is manageable for most people.
Things to note: Zion is not currently accepting new members in Washington.
Sedera was founded in 2014 by Dr. Tony Dale, a former physician from Great Britain, who became interested in the American medical system after he had to have surgery in the United States. Having seen the inconsistencies in the system, Dr. Dale decided to put a stop to the unmet needs in the traditional health insurance industry and founded Sedera as an alternative solution within the Medical Cost Sharing concept. Members are free to choose their own providers, anywhere in the world!
Sedera also lets members choose their IUA level with 5 different pricing levels! This is more choice than many healthshares offer (religious or otherwise), and we really like that they have a low, $500 option. They also have a short waiting period for pre-existing conditions, with a slightly different structure: after 3 years of membership, pre-existing conditions are fully shareable with no limits. However, the 2nd and 3rd year have much lower sharing limits than Zion ($15,000 and $30,000, compared to Zion’s $25,000 and $50,000). With the companies both performing so well, this may honestly be the one thing that helps potential members decide which healthshare works better for them. Depending on the chronic condition, it may make more sense to choose the membership with no sharing limits after finishing 3 years. If that’s the case, Sedera could be the way to go.
Things to note: Sedera is not currently accepting new members in Washington, Vermont, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania.