How I had a Baby for $0 Using Christian Healthcare Ministries!
How Christian Healthcare Ministries has worked for us!
Instead of traditional health insurance, our family uses Christian Healthcare Ministries, a health cost sharing group. We have been CHM members for nearly 4 years now. I’ve had 3 miscarriages, one emergency ectopic pregnancy surgery, and 1 c-section using CHM. We have put CHM to the test! We have saved well over $20,000 by being Christian Healthcare Ministry members.
I’d like to share with you how CHM works, and explain more about how we have saved so much on our medical bills. I have a lot to say, and will try to explain the ins and outs as best I can, but feel free to reach out personally if you have any specific questions. I am also not a healthcare professional, so I can only share my personal experience. I will link the CHM website below and encourage anyone to do their own research as well.
*CHM is a Christ based ministry and we did have to agree that we were Christ followers and had a home church as well as sign off that neither of us were smokers.*
Christian Healthcare Ministries is different than typical insurance. There are 3 plans under CHM. The Bronze Plan is $45 per unit a month. The Silver Plan is $85 per unit, and the Gold Plan is $150 per unit. Our family of 4 is made up of 3 units and we are Gold Plan members and pay $450 a month. This is around $300 out of our pockets less per month that the insurance my husband could have signed up for with his job.
CHM members do not have deductibles or co-pays, but rather “responsibilities”. As Gold Plan members we are responsible for everything up to $500 per incident or illness. The Bronze Plan has a $5,000 responsibility per incident, and the Silver Plan has a $1,000 responsibility per incident. All 3 plans have a cap of $125,000 per incident/illness, but there is a program called Brother’s Keeper that allows Gold Members to have unlimited bill sharing with no cap.
Example 1: A well visit for our children never comes close to $500, so we pay those bills and don’t report them to CHM. We do however, ask for a self-pay discount before we pay. I’ve had up to 40% discounted on well and sick visits.
Example 2: My OBGYN has a self pay program for pregnant self pay patients. With this program the total for all prenatal office visits and standard testing during my pregnancy as well as postpartum checkups was around $1500. CHM sent me a check for the full amount because I had secured a discount of greater than or equal value to my $500 responsibility. I paid $0 for my pregnancy and postpartum and it was paid in full before my 3rd trimester.
Since CHM is not typical insurance, it does require a bit more effort on the member’s part. Instead of a doctors office or hospital billing the insurance company, the member is responsible for requesting a self pay discount and an itemized bill reflecting the discount and new total, and then responsible for scanning the bill into the online CHM Member Portal. In my experience it has been very easy to receive self pay discounts on each and every medical bill we’ve had, and the Member Portal is simple to use. Any questions I have ever had have been answered with clarity when I call to speak to a CHM representative. The savings are worth the effort every time!
In general, CHM does not pay for prescriptions or vaccinations (there are exceptions). The few times we have needed a prescription we used goodrx.com to see which pharmacy could provide us with the lowest price on that particular drug. It has always been a significant discount and affordable. Vaccinations also can be discounted for self pay patients depending on your provider. Regardless, the monthly savings by being CHM members has always outweighed the extra costs. Even if you have maintenance prescriptions, don’t rule CHM out. Sometimes just by not having typical insurance your prescriptions will be even more affordable just by using goodrx. It’s worth looking into.
There are no networks with CHM! I pick the doctor and hospital I want. It’s that easy. If I were to have any questions about a bill being shared for particular appointment or procedure I would call CHM to talk through my options and get any information I might need to proceed.
When I had my ectopic pregnancy I was diagnosed in Athens, but decided to drive back home to Dalton to be operated on by doctors and nurses who knew me by name, and so I could be cared for by family. I never had to worry about if my switch of provider would be covered. To make a long story short, my bills surrounding that pregnancy and surgery were over $24,000. I received a steep discount for being self pay and my bills ended up totaling around $14,000 of which I paid $0 in the end.
When I scan my itemized and discounted bills into the Member Portal I can expect to receive reimbursement within 9-12 weeks. That sounds like a long time to have bills posted on the fridge, and it is. As a CHM member it is my responsibility to set up a payment plan with each provider and pay on the bills until I receive a check from CHM. Practically, this looks like me paying small amounts ($75-$150) on my bills per month. If I secure a discount of $500 or more per incident or illness (pregnancy being 1) I will receive a check made out to myself for the total of my medical bills. I deposit that check into my bank account and then promptly pay off all the remaining portions of my bills, reimbursing myself for what I already paid on the payment plans.
In the end, doctors are getting paid. Hospitals are getting paid. The discount only reflects the markup providers give to insurance companies. This is not scamming providers. My midwife from home has asked for CHM information to give patients. The finance counselor at my OBGYN office in Athens has requested info for patients, because she saw how CHM worked for me.
*If a bill needs expediting in order to receive a steeper discount CHM is happy to do so. I received my ectopic surgery check in 2 weeks so we could save a higher %.
Under the Gold Plan all maternity and delivery bills are sharable. There is a time frame of early membership where you cannot be pregnant (around 3 months).
Brother’s Keeper is CHMs program for unlimited bill sharing above and beyond the $125,000 per incident cap for Gold Members. Our family is a part of the Brother’s Keeper program. We pay $40 total every January for our family to be members. The cost for Brother’s Keeper depends on the needs submitted quarterly from Brother’s Keeper members.
Example: one quarter the needs equaled $25 per unit for each Brother’s Keeper membership. So we paid $75 that quarter. Another quarter we paid $40 per unit. That’s it. We have never paid more than $120 per quarter for Brother’s Keeper, and it is well worth the added cost knowing we would be supported if something catastrophic happened to one of us.
On the CHM website there is a tax form to print and submit with our yearly taxes that keeps us from being penalized due to the Affordable Care Act.
I could never properly explain the details regarding pre-existing conditions, so refer to the website here. https://www.chministries.org/preexistingconditions.aspx
Bring a Friend:
Members of CHM who refer a friend using their member number receive a free month! Over the last few years we have referred probably 10 or more friends and once they have been members for 3 months we receive a free month! I won’t lie, it is so nice to have one less bill a month when that happens. What is the most satisfying is knowing that we helped someone lighten their financial load by joining something that has blessed us time after time. If you or someone you know decide to join CHM please send me a Facebook message, Instagram chat, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can share my member # for referral! Once you are a member you can start referring friends and family too!
Our Recent Delivery:
This week I received a check in full for my hospital bills surrounding my recent pregnancy and delivery. At 35 weeks I had to have a non-stress test, biophysical profile, fetal fibronectin test, and observation at Labor and Delivery. 4 days before my c-section we were concerned my water had broken so I spent several hours in Labor and Delivery for testing and monitoring. Both of those hospital stays and testing, and my c-section and hospital stay for myself and the baby after delivery are all being covered in full by CHM. My hospital has a 70% discount for self pay patients and so I have been reimbursed every penny for all of my hospital care! When CHM sent me my check they enclosed a letter saying that this money was not given to me because of a contract or binding agreement, but it was the body of Christ surrounding our family in our time of need. I cannot think of a bill I am more thrilled to pay every month than our CHM payment. This is why I tell anyone who will listen about our experience. This is why I want to share. CHM might not be the right fit for every family, but I’m convinced it can be a blessing to so many.
Please reach out with any questions, and don’t forget to ask for our member # if you decide to jump in and start saving on your medical expenses like we have