HealthCare » Health Sharing » What is Health Cost Sharing? Part 1: The History

What is Health Cost Sharing? Part 1: The History

Earlier last week, we announced the kNew Health Cooperative initiative—a lofty goal to create the very first non-faith-based, community-focused health cost sharing cooperative.

Yes, that’s a mouthful. And you probably have some questions.

We firmly believe that before you entrust your health and money into any new model of care, you deserve to know where this model comes from (its history), how it works and its track record of success.

Today’s article will focus on the history of cost sharing and how this model has endured and grown to earn the trust of over 1 million Americans since its humble beginnings.

But first…

What Exactly is Health Cost Sharing?

Health cost sharing is a model of healthcare coverage in which a group of people pay a monthly sum (known as a “share”) to cover each other’s healthcare expenses.

It has traditionally been practiced among Christian groups wishing to follow the Bible’s teachings of sharing one another’s financial burdens.

For this reason, today’s cost sharing programs are also known as cost sharing “ministries”.

These ministries operate very similar to traditional health insurance, except instead of paying an insurance company to cover your bills, you’re paying into a pool that you and your fellow members can access as healthcare needs arise.

For example, let’s say your child develops a strange rash and needs to see a pediatrician.

In a traditional insurance model, you’d typically see a doctor in-network, pay your deductible and the doctor’s office bills the remainder to your insurance company plus any extras that aren’t covered.

In a cost sharing program, you pick your pediatrician, pay the cash rate (which is typically much lower) and the bill is picked up or reimbursed by the cost sharing organization subject to the rules of the pool.

In most cases there is an annual “un-shared” amount (which functions like your deductible). That’s it. Pretty awesome, huh?

And yes, for most healthy people, cost sharing can replace your current health insurance and save you a bundle of money.

Why Then, Don’t More People use Cost Sharing Programs?

Part of the reason is, up until now you have to be of the Christian faith and share the ministries’ beliefs to sign up.

However, with the kNew Health Cooperative your faith has no bearing on your acceptance. It’s a kNew model of cost sharing.

Now that you know what cost sharing is and how it works, let’s take a look at how this radically successful model came to be.

Health Cost Sharing Began Decades Ago in Rural Religious Communities…

Even though this may be the first time you’re learning about it, cost sharing is nothing new.

In fact, it began decades ago with the Amish-Mennonites who, bound by their religion to forego insurance, would share each other’s healthcare expenses within the community.

In 1980, cost sharing was expanded beyond the Amish-Mennonites when an Ohio pastor suffered a terrible car accident resulting in a slew of medical expenses.

If left to pay these bills alone, the pastor would have suffered a severe financial blow. But much to his surprise, word got out about his situation and fellow Christians came together to pay all his medical bills.

The pastor was so blown away by this act of generosity, that upon his recovery he established the first official cost sharing ministry for the Christian community.

Since the 1980s, five cost sharing ministries were established. And while the programs experienced growth in the 1990s and early part of the 21st century, they were largely unheard of outside Christian circles…

…until the citizens of the United States elected Barack Obama as their President.

How President Obama Unintentionally Put Cost Sharing Ministries on the Map

Despite your political convictions, if you’re considering cost sharing today you have President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump to thank.

Let’s start with President Obama—who unintentionally put cost sharing ministries on the map.

When Obama instated the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it rocked the nation by requiring all Americans to purchase insurance from a mainstream provider.

And, despite publicized intentions to make healthcare more affordable, for many people the ACA did the exact opposite.

Now not only were Americans forced to buy insurance for the first time in history, but the insurance was astronomically expensive…for individual payers and employers.

With the average government-subsidized high-deductible health plan costing $1021 a month for a family[note][/note] (and more for private plans), many people went in search of alternatives.

What they found were the Christian cost sharing ministries. Which were legal under the Affordable Care Act due to specific exemptions granted to them during the creation of the ACA.

And, despite the caveats about shared beliefs, pre-existing conditions and other requirements, people starting signing up in droves.

According to the Alliance for Health Care Sharing Ministries[note][/note] upwards of 1 million Americans are now enrolled in cost sharing ministries, compared to just 160,000 pre-Affordable Care Act.

How the Trump-Factor Transformed Today’s Cost Sharing Choices

Since President Trump signed his controversial tax bill in January 2018, Americans will no longer be required to purchase insurance by January 2019.

What does this mean for the future of cost sharing ministries?

At present not a whole lot, as they will still have the market cornered (so to speak) on affordable coverage for Christians.

However, thanks to President Trump, people of any faith will now be able to take advantage of cost sharing through our non-faith-based kNew Health Cooperative. 

kNew Health Cooperative will operate much like cost sharing ministries in terms of the cost of care and freedom of choice; but we will not have a faith or belief-requirement and we will be offering additional incentives to create individual and community health.

By taking advantage of new technology and smart use of functional medicine, we plan to make our cooperative even more cost efficient and transparent than the ministries.

We’ll have more on the details of how cost sharing differs from insurance and what to expect from the cooperative in next week’s article.

in the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about a kNew way to get quality healthcare coverage through non-faith-based cost sharing, visit:

Here’s to the past, present and bright future of cost sharing…

-The kNew Health Team

<a href="" target="_self">Joshua Rosenthal</a>

Joshua Rosenthal


Joshua Rosenthal MScED is a visionary in health and wellness. He is founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, an online higher education school where students are trained as Health Coaches. Founded in 1992, the school has a global community of 100,000 graduates in 155 countries worldwide. Joshua is the author of many books and holds a Masters of Science degree in Education.