How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Note: We have used Christian Care Medi-Share since 2003 and have no plans to change. If you click through our links and sign up with Christian Care Medi-share, they will give us credit. If you call them, please mention Steve Bagasao as your referral. It’s a simple way to help our music mission continue.

It’s pretty much a 50/50 proposition whether someone comes up to us and says, “You’re living my dream!” or “You people are nuts.” If you’re in the first category and are considering launching a lifestyle like ours (or any out-of-the-box move), it’s important to realize that this particular dream doesn’t come with benefits, namely health insurance.

So what do we do for health insurance?

Since 2003 we have been members of a Christian medical bill sharing program called Christian Care Medi-Share. To break CCMS down into its simplest terms, members submit a monthly amount to a credit union where each family has an account. That money is then used to pay the medical expenses of members.

It is not insurance in the legal sense of the word, since each member or family has its own account at the credit union and is simply depositing money there rather than submitting funds to a corporation. Therefore, it is not subject to the same criteria as government-controlled insurance, which is a good thing, as you’ll see if you keep reading.

CCMS has been around since 1993, proving that they are not a flash in the pan. Also, if you are a member of Medi-share, you are not required to have government-mandated insurance.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Our experience.

We have been members for 14 years. Christian Care Medi-Share has covered four pregnancies in full after our deductible. They have paid for Hannah’s ludicrously expensive hospital stays for her Crohn’s disease. They have covered the well-care visits for the first five years. And they have covered the numerous injuries incurred by eight children and their antics.

We in general have been very happy with them.

Issues do arise now and then, but when they do, we give CCMS a call and they are excellent about helping us out, even praying for our needs right there on the phone.

Do you qualify?

All applicants must sign the following:

  • a statement of faith (it’s very non-denominational, so you won’t be compromising any beliefs if you are, indeed, a Christian), and
  • a healthy lifestyle commitment (no abuse of alcohol or prescription drugs for 12 months prior, no illegal drugs or tobacco for 12 months prior to membership, commit to no sex outside of marriage, no robbing banks–the usual).

Check out the site for further guidelines and application information.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

How does it work?

There are several levels of the program. Ours is the 1250, meaning we have an annual deductible of $1250. Once that is met, CCMS members pay our medical bills in full, apart from a $35 office or hospital visit or a $135 emergency room visit. (Urgent Care is only $35, so we go there.)

Here’s how it plays out. Let’s say you visit Dr. Payne (I had a doctor by that name–unfortunate, isn’t it?) for a possible broken nose because you didn’t listen to your parents when they said, “Do not leap from tables and tear around the gym in your stocking feet!” This is all hypothetical, you understand, although we do have witnesses to our giving that warning…hypothetically. Payne says “The nose is fine” and charges you for his time. The staff submits your bills to CCMS, who negotiates discounts just like an insurance company would and just like you would try to do if you were a cash patient…but for some reason, we cash patients rarely get those same discounts.

Whatever is left is “shared.” That means members pay it from their credit union accounts. CCMS takes care of the actual process of moving money from the account to the providers, so you’re not writing several checks every month–you still only make your monthly payment/deposit. Simple! If you’re used to a regular insurance company, you won’t find the payment process to be any different.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

How much does it cost?

There are individual and family accounts. The family account is based on the age of the oldest family member. There are also senior and group plans.

The costs vary based on which program you choose–higher or lower deductibles. Young people can get the lowest deductible of all, which is $500. Us old fogies have to settle for $1250 to $10,000.

Whatever your deductible, CCMS will still negotiate discounts, so your payment generally will be lower than if you paid cash…but not always. For our family of 10 with head of household in his 50s, we pay less than $800 a month for a $1250 deductible. Check out the website for more information or to get a quote. (Tell them Stephen Bagasao sent you!)

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

What are some perks to CCMS over government-controlled health insurance?

Pro-life: CCMS does not use a single half-penny to support abortion. Not even the remotest fraction of a penny. We appreciate that we are not unwittingly paying for the death of a child.

Health requirements: As part of the program, you are not allowed to smoke, use drugs, abuse alcohol, or pursue similar unhealthy lifestyle choices. Members agree to respect God’s design for marriage and sex, so sexually-transmitted diseases (with exceptions), sterilizations, and abortions are not covered. If you get in an accident while drunk or robbing a bank, you’re also on your own–no more dipping into the Wells Fargo vault to support your chocolate habit! In this way, members ultimately become healthier and costs are kept down. (While they encourage healthy eating and recommend a vegetarian diet, your membership is in no way in jeopardy if you eat a hamburger! Trust us on that one.)

Health incentives: CCMS encourages a healthier lifestyle by offering health incentive discounts. If you qualify, you receive a sizable discount each month.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Advice: Health coaches are available to guide you on your journey. In fact, if you have a condition that doesn’t allow you to be a regular member, you can choose to be placed under the guidance of a health partner who will assist you toward a healthier lifestyle (premium is slightly higher).

Prayer: Members pray for other members.

Help for non-covered expenses: CCMS has an Extra Blessings program through which members may choose at their will to help other members whose need for some God-fearing reason or another does not qualify for sharing, such as pre-existing conditions. In other words, if you are pregnant when joining CCMS, your pregnancy is not eligible for sharing, but you can apply for Extra Blessings and members will send you money and cards of their own free will. Members are amazingly generous about helping other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Encourage good stewardship: If you can find alternative funding or work out a discount with the medical facility where you were treated, CCMS rewards you for your work by discounting your monthly fees–this is called a share credit. When we were losing our business and launching the music mission, Hannah had been hospitalized. Costs were in the tens of thousands. We negotiated a deal with the hospital, and CCMS considered that discount a payment from us. Essentially, our share for a family of 9 at the time (counting our unborn Eliana) was $100 a month. The timing couldn’t have been better. Thank you, Father!

Senior plan: They also have Senior Assist sharing for members 65 and older on Medicare Parts A and B. You cannot apply for CCMS if you are already 65 or older, but current members may stay with CCMS or transition to Senior Assist.

Young adults: Children can stay on their parents’ account until they are 23, as long as they sign a statement of faith and a health commitment. At 23 they can transition to individual memberships. All conditions that were covered before are still eligible for sharing, so Hannah’s Crohn’s will not be considered pre-existing when she turns 23.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Group plans: Churches and Christian employers can sign up for Medi-Share Groups, which covers all employees under a group plan. Call them for details.

Flexible provider network: CCMs has a network of preferred providers, which some may see as a negative. They do, however, still cover costs for out-of-network providers, but not the portion which may be over the UOC or “usual and customary” charges. To avoid these charges, contact CCMS before selecting, for example, an OB. If there is no OB within a 20-mile radius, they will waive this over UOC regulation. It might require a little more paperwork on your part and you’ll definitely need to be paying attention to the bills coming in and their processing, but if you’re smart you’re doing that anyway. I actually appreciate the network, because they are used to working with CCMS (or at least their processor PHCS, Private Health Care Systems, which is a huge nationwide provider). So, yes, you may stay with your current doctor. You may also nominate your doctor to become part of the network. We have never had a real problem, whether we stay in network or go outside. If there is a hiccup, CCMS has bent over backward to work it out.

Pregnancy, Midwives, and Adoption: Certified midwifes are covered. So are pregnancies and adoptions. The cap is pretty reasonable and we have never gone over.

Click here to request more information.

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

There is a downside to CCMS, as with anything:

There are many ways that CCMS works to keep costs down. Some of these come across as disadvantages, especially when in the throes of a medical crisis, so I’m listing them here. In reality, however, many of them make people think, which isn’t a common practice anymore. They make a person hunt around for better prices, find alternative means of funding, and determine if they really need ABC or if XYZ would work just as well. This keeps costs down for all members and limits unnecessary spending.

Medication: CCMS covers only six months of medication for a prescription, although they do offer a discount card. This is an issue for us, since Hannah is on medication (although working hard to wean off) for her Crohn’s, and may have to be for life. When faced with the decision to use medication or pursue infusions, the fact that CCMS would only cover six months of infusions at $2500 per month made that decision pretty simple. (Here again, we are forced to hunt for cheaper prices, alternatives to medication, other funding sources…is this a bad thing? Not always. In our case, it steered us in a better direction. If her condition becomes severe in the future, however, we will not be able to afford infusions.)

Vision and dental: They do not cover vision or dental, although they offer discounts for both. I think that’s common. It’s also why we got Marissa’s braces in Mexico. Ole!

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Natural doctors: Naturopaths, herbalists, and the like are not covered. Same goes with chiropractors unless it means avoiding surgery. (Again, midwives are covered.) We got around this because Hannah’s naturopath is dual-licensed as an MD, so he is covered, even though he requires cash payments which CCMS reimburses after we submit a claim. This policy kinda stinks, since we would love to keep ourselves healthier with some chiro and some decent blood work-up to find out where we need more attention or balance in our lives. Again, a little research helps us find the cheapest ways possible to achieve these results.

Screening:  Also not covered are routine exams and tests. This is their biggest downfall in my opinion. I’m all about prevention and doing things God’s way to save money and avoid health issues on the back-end. Well checks are covered for the first five years, but after that it’s out of pocket–again, negotiating cash payments works, and CCMS will still arrange a discount even if the bill isn’t shareable.

Pre-existing conditions: This is an issue. Their policies change periodically based on member voting, so if you have a pre-existing condition, contact a representative. I believe they are covered if you have had no issue for more than five years, but, again, call a rep. They are happy to help you!

Motorcyclists, pilots, etc: Certain high-risk behaviors are not covered or have a lower annual cap, so if you are a motorcycle driver, read the fine print. (I don’t think horseback riding is considered high-risk. Phew!)

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

Summary

We really appreciate being part of an organization that serves God and others with its money, while not supporting abortion or hiking rates hikes because of other members’ unhealthy behaviors. It’s also a comfort to know that others are kneeling at the throne of God on our behalf. Finally, I’m glad we’re not subject to the whims of the government in our health decisions–yikes!

If you have any questions for us as members, please leave them in the comment section and we will reply based on our experiences.

Click here to request more information. Please tell them we sent you!

How We Handle Health Insurance as Self-Employed Missionaries and Full-Time RVers

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