Faith Based Insurance? Be Careful

January 27, 2010

At a time when many eyes and ears are focused on Washington, D.C. and a final (at least for now) verdict on health care reform, hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians are choosing another alternative. It’s called a faith-based health plan and while it can save you money on major medical expenses, there are a few things you should know.

As reported by ABC News last September, if you belong to a Christian health plan, members cover each other’s major medical bills via monthly donations to the plan, and they must donate even if they never set foot in a doctor’s office in a given month.

To join, you must be an evangelical Christian who goes to church, and you must promise not to smoke, drink heavily, or have sex outside of marriage, and you must be approved by your minister or pastor.

The catch is that there are no guarantees that your medical bills will be paid, because these plans are not regulated by the government, and technically, they’re also not insurance. ABC’s reporters discovered that some of these plan advisors have spent members’ money on cars, houses, and travel, while others, since they are operated on a cash-flow basis, can only pay out based on whatever cash is on hand.

Finally, there are the other caveats: faith based health plans generally don’t cover contraceptives, do not cover abortion (even if it’s medically necessary) and often won’t cover AIDS treatment, even though AIDS can be, and often is, contracted by heterosexual patients.

The bottom line? Join all the prayer circles you want, find another way to donate to your church and be involved in your faith community, and if you think you’re likely to have major medical expenses, stick with conventional insurance.