Alaskans opt out of insurance, choose health care ministries

ANCHORAGE — Some Alaska residents are turning to religious organizations as an alternative to health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Christian Health Care Sharing Ministries allows members to pay a monthly fee to have their medical expenses over a certain amount be reimbursed. These kinds of religiously affiliated organizations are legal under the Affordable Care Act, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported.

Lane Chesley, of Homer, said he and his wife chose to contribute monthly to a Mennonite-affiliated organization based in Ohio after they were faced with an insurance rate from Moda Health totaling more than $2,000.

“We were put in a position where we really have no choice but to opt out of the traditional insurance because we just simply can’t afford the premiums in the individual market,” he said.

Chesley said he and his wife became members of Liberty HealthShare Nov. 1. Their $300 monthly contribution provides them access to shared funds from the health ministry for medical expenses over $1,000 per incident.

Chesley has been impressed with the service so far and has suggested that his friends in Homer try the alternative to health insurance.

“We all started Googling ‘health share ministries’ to see if we could find articles or information about how these health share ministries have failed their members and we couldn’t find any,” he said.

While health care ministries may be the best alternative for some residents, they do come with a bit of risk. The organizations do not provide insurance and are not required to have cash reserves to ensure they stay solvent.

For Chesley and his wife, the alternative to health insurance is a way to save money.

“The math just seemed to stack up to say it’s worth a try, regardless of whether I get anything reimbursed or not. Because I have a legal mechanism now where I don’t have to pay $36,000 for health insurance.”

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