Paying for a Baby Without Insurance - Christian Healthcare Ministries Review
Health insurance is a hard topic, mostly because it’s so politicized and expensive. But today, I’m going to talk about it anyway, because I’ve been using an alternative to typical health insurance and it’s saving my family thousands of dollars throughout my pregnancy.
This is just my personal experience and everyone’s situations and medical needs are different, so I encourage you to read this and then do your own research on what options may work best for your family and financial situation.
A Quick Background
I want to give you a quick peek into our family so you can understand our needs and see how they compare with your own.
My husband was in the Air Force for almost four years before a back injury resulted in a medical discharge. Basically, that means that my husband’s healthcare will be covered by the VA for the rest of his life. The downside to this is that his health coverage doesn’t extend to his wife or kids, so I had to find another option.
I work for a small family-run business, so I don’t get health care through work. When we first got married, I decided to pay for my own plan through Anthem (aka BlueCross-BlueShield). Originally when I signed up for Anthem insurance I was paying $264.06 monthly. In late 2017 I got a letter stating that after the year was up, my bill was going to increase to $356 per month. That’s when I decided to start shopping for an alternative.
I had heard of healthcare sharing ministries through Dave Ramsey’s show, but I never gave it much thought until we were facing this big bump in medical expenses. We knew we wanted to start trying for a baby in 2018, so I needed to find something that would cover maternity costs without breaking the bank.
Enter Christian Healthcare Ministries.
What is CHM?
According to their website, “Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is a nonprofit health cost sharing ministry through which Christians voluntarily share each other’s medical bills. It is not an insurance company.”
Essentially, CHM is an alternative to insurance that still legally meets all the tax requirements for insurance (meaning you won’t be hit with that huge fee for not having health insurance during tax time). Because CHM is not technically insurance, it works very differently from what you may be used to.
There are three payment tiers to choose from. Personally, I think paying the $150 monthly gift for the Gold Plan, is the most economical choice, especially if you’re used to paying more than double that with your current insurance. However, you can read about all the payment options here.
Every month, you pay your monthly gift amount. If you have medical expenses come up that cost more than $500, $1000, or $5000 (depending on which plan you choose), you can submit those bills to CHM to “share” the cost of your bills. For clarity, I’m going to use the Gold Plan as a reference for the following example:
Let’s say you break your leg. You go to an emergency room, get an x-ray, get a cast and you tell the checkout clerk that you’re self-pay. They hand you a bill for $5,000, yikes.
The first thing you do is ask for any self-pay discounts. (From my own experience, all my doctor bills have had AT LEAST a 25% discount available to me, often another 10-15% if I pay the bill within 90 days.) They tell you they offer a 25% discount on self-pay patients, bringing your total to $3,750.
Next, you ask if they have any payment plans available, they tell you yes, you can pay a monthly $100 until the bill is paid in full, you sign up for the plan, pay the $100 and head home.
Once you have the itemized bill from your doctor, you submit the Needs Processing Form, HIPAA agreement, a Letter of Explanation and the Bill online to CHM.
Over the next four months, you pay a total of $400 out of pocket on the payment plan.
Within 120 days from your submission, CHM sends you a check for $3,750. You pay off the rest of the bill with that money and “refund” yourself the $400 you paid over the past four months and you’re done.
Here’s what happened:
$500 of the total cost of your medical bills needed to be covered by you on the gold plan. However, with the self-pay discount taking $1250 off the bill, those discounts are applied to YOUR total first, then to CHM’s total sharing costs. That means, you’ve been fully refunded for the $400 paid for the 4 months you were on a payment plan, and CHM covered the rest of the bill. At the end of the day, you paid nothing for your broken leg.
Regular insurance has you pay your monthly bill (your deductible), plus a copay for doctor visits, and likely a percentage of your medical bills depending on the level of coverage you have. That means that you would’ve likely paid a copay on your emergency room visit, a percentage of a $5000 bill, plus 4 months of $300+ insurance deductibles for the coverage. With CHM, you paid $150 per month for your coverage and nothing for your broken leg.
CHM sounds great from this example, but I do want to mention that this is not for everyone. Because of the way CHM is structured, you NEED to have some sort of emergency medical savings built up to cover any expenses that might come up and need to be paid upfront.
If you have a provider that does not offer self-pay discounts, every medical incident will cost you up to $500 on the gold plan. If your provider does not offer payment plans, you might have to pay the bill in full and then wait for CHM to send you a check up to 120 days later.
Here’s what my husband and I did to prepare for switching to CHM:
We put $1000 into a medical savings account. This would cover simple $100 doctor visits and at least one medical incident costing more than $500 per year.
We started a “baby fund” for medical expenses relating to a future pregnancy.
CHM has been a huge blessing to our family this year. We are able to pay for our first baby (due this December) and get all my maternity costs covered under their gold plan. So far, we have had nothing but good things to say about CHM. If you do decide this might be a good option for you and your family, keep reading for a little more info on the maternity side of things.
How I Track my Bills
Tracking all my bills and expenses have been super important to this process. I get bills from my doctor, then when I call to pay them I get additional discounts and a new bill to reflect those discounts, plus I get monthly statements on any payment plans we have in place, and I get billed separately for lab work. Keeping organized here is important so that I don’t forget to submit bills to CHM, but also so that I don’t submit one more than once and slow down the repayment process.
Set up a Google Drive Folder
The first thing I did was set up a folder in my Google Drive account called “Pregnancy”. Any bills, invoices, emails regarding bills, pre-payment plans or paperwork involving my pregnancy live in this folder. I love using Google Drive because I can access the files from anywhere, and I can share them quickly with my husband in case he needs access to them.
I use a super simple app called Scanbot to turn any paper bills into PDFs. The app works great because I can save those PDFs straight into my Google Drive account and access them from my phone, laptop or desktop computer whenever I need them. It also makes it easy to rename and file them with CHM.
As I save bills into the folder, I also track them in my bill tracker sheet.
Download the Expense Tracker from CHM
CHM has a super simple tracker that you can download from their site. It allows you to keep track of the invoices, doctor visits and cost-sharing info all in one place. I saved mine as a Google Sheet file and I keep it in the same folder as all my bills and invoices so that I have quick access when I need it.
How I Pay my Bills
Whenever I get a bill from my doctor, I call the billing department right away and ask if they have an early pay discount (I know they offer a 10% discount if you ask for it) - they say yes, take my card over the phone and send me a new bill with the updated amount.
After that, I transfer the amount I paid out of my “baby savings account” into my checking and deduct the cost from our budget. I make sure to send CHM my updated bill and within 120 days, they send us a check for the amount shared. I deposit that check into our baby savings account and call it good!
How Much Money We’ve Saved
I pay for the gold plan at CHM which is a flat $150 per month. In just monthly costs I’ll have saved $2472 in a one year period by switching to CHM from Anthem. That alone is a huge saving for us and will be much better utilized in our debt snowball than going to bills. On top of that, we will have paid a total of $0 for my entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery by the time all the bills are paid and submitted.
This is because, although I technically pay $500 for each medical incident (pregnancy being counted as one incident), the discounts I get from my doctors first get applied to my balance and then to the bills that are shared by CHM. Since I received well over $500 in discounts because of my “self-pay” status, we didn’t pay a dime to have a baby.
Since my baby hasn’t been born at the time that I am writing this, I don’t have exact numbers yet. However, based on quotes from our hospital and doctor, I can estimate that the total cost of this pregnancy would be around $18,000 without CHM.
Signing Up with CHM
Full disclosure here - CHM has a generous affiliate program that I am part of as a CHM member. That means that for every person who signs up with my link, I get one month free. I tell you this so that if you think CHM will be a good choice for your family, and you found this info helpful, you might consider using the button below to sign up and bless my family with a little extra cash this month.
I did not write this post as a promotion to save me money or to trick you into signing up. I wrote this because I truly believe CHM is a wonderful alternative to typical insurance. It has saved my family and I a ton of money over these last few months and I believe it could save your family money if you have a similar situation to us.
If you have any questions about Christian Healthcare Ministries please leave me a comment down below I'm more than happy to answer or clarify any questions you might have.