Every health share provides its members with guidelines that provide information about their organization and details about sharing. These guidelines include principles of membership members must attest to, information on what is shareable, and how long you may need to wait before needs related to pre-membership conditions may be eligible for sharing.
You need to be familiar with the principles of membership
When you join a health share, you must attest to their principles of membership, or statement of beliefs, before your needs may be eligible for sharing. Each set of membership principles is different, so it’s important that you understand what you’re agreeing to before joining any medical cost sharing community. Religious health shares, for example, only accept members who agree with their religious beliefs and promise to adhere their lifestyle to those beliefs. Breaking an organization’s principles of membership will result in a loss of membership, and any medical expenses you may have will become unshareable.
Your membership may be subject to sharing limits
Unfortunately for health share members, not all companies are willing to share all medical expenses. Some health shares put a limit on how much can be shared per medical need; while this is often specific to certain medical conditions and needs, like maternity care or physical therapy, some organizations institute these sharing limits, or caps, across the board.
Depending on the company and the type of membership you choose, there may be limits on sharing per need (like the $250,000 per need with Samaritan’s Classic Membership), per year (Altrua HealthShare’s Sapphire Membership limits sharing to $250,000 annually), per membership (OneShare Health has a lifetime sharing limit of $1,000,000), or sharing for eligible medical needs may be virtually unlimited. Sharing limits don’t just differ from health share to health share, but also between memberships options from the same health share (For example, while Altrua’s Sapphire and Ruby Memberships have annual sharing limits, their more expensive Emerald and Diamond Memberships do not. It’s important to understand any sharing limitations ahead of time to be sure your membership best suits your needs and budget.
There are pre-existing conditions limitations and waiting periods
Unlike insurance, health shares often choose not to share most medical expenses related to pre-existing conditions. While rare exceptions may be made for conditions like high cholesterol or hypertension, medical expenses related to conditions or symptoms that existed before starting your membership are typically subject to pre-existing limitations. Usually, if symptoms related to the need existed within a period of two years (or sometimes longer) before joining a health share, then any expenses related to that need are subject to a waiting period before they may be shareable.
These waiting periods may last many months or even years, and it’s vital you appreciate the duration and specifics of your health share’s waiting period and limitations related to pre-existing conditions to know whether it’s right for you.
The guidelines may have changed after a recent update
Even if you were familiar with your health share’s membership guidelines before joining, it’s important to check on them again semi-regularly to learn of any changes. Health shares usually update their guidelines on an annual basis (or even quarterly), and this update may include changes to sharing limits, the principles of membership, what is eligible for sharing, and when and to what extent needs related to pre-existing conditions may be shared.
Ultimately, health shares can be a great option for you and your family, but it’s important to know what you’re signing up for, or how your membership may have changed.