Our family doesn’t have insurance – instead, we use a health share with an organization called Christian Healthcare Ministries. Here is an overview of our experience during my pregnancy – and how, when all is said and done, I will have paid $0 for my prenatal and postpartum care.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Maternity Review
This post has been in the works for a long time.
As I’ve shared many times previously, we don’t have insurance.
No, we have something that works much better for our family – a Christian health share.
If you are unfamiliar with this idea – you can read this post all about Christian health shares.
When I was first shopping around for one, finding a program with a robust maternity program was at the top of the list.
In the end, Christian Healthcare Ministries is what we chose, and it’s been a wonderful experience over the past few years.
I’ve already shared our Christian Healthcare Ministries experience with surgery, and since I just delivered my baby two months ago, I thought it was about time I share everything about having a baby with CHM.
How does a Health share work?
A health share like CHM is not insurance.
Anyone who participates pays a monthly share. This share goes to pay for others’ medical expenses.
There are a lot of health shares – more and more popping up – but I suggest doing your research and going with one that is reputable and has a good reputation for paying bills.
Many are exempt under the ACA. CHM is.
You typically have to live a certain lifestyle in order to signup, though religious beliefs and requirements will vary.
Pre-existing conditions aren’t always shared. With CHM, there is a three-year-plan for pre-existing conditions where they will pay a certain amount.
They don’t typically share long term medical expenses or care, such as diabetes.
With CHM, if you have a bill that doesn’t qualify for sharing, you can submit it to the prayer page. Many times, these are shared by individual donations from other members.
Why We Chose CHM for Maternity
I feel that CHM’s maternity program is very generous.
Our family is on the Gold Plan with Brother’s Keeper, which allows us to have unlimited sharing for pregnancy and pregnancy complications.
I ended up have a couple of complications during my pregnancy:
- Gestational Diabetes
- Polyhydramnios (excess fluid)
- Andrew had an enlarged kidney
- Early cramping that sent me to the hospital at 32 weeks
Because of these issues, we had more expenses than I initially anticipated – and CHM shared the specialists, extra appointments and ultrasounds, and testing. As you may know, specialists can be really pricey, so I was grateful that we would eventually be reimbursed for all those expenses.
Here is a helpful chart from CHM comparing what is shared between the Gold, Silver, and Bronze. If you are planning to get pregnant, I strongly would recommend the Gold package.
Your baby will be shared for a couple of months after they are born, and then you will need to add them to your plan.
Another thing to keep in mind is that CHM will only share about $25,000 in expenses for any congenital defects or issues, so that’s something to keep in mind.
REMEMBER – you have to already be on a CHM plan before you get pregnant. They will not share bills for pregnancies that happened before you joined CHM.
How Much We Paid
**UPDATE – We were reimbursed for everything by about 90 days postpartum!**
When all is said and done, I will have paid nothing for my maternity and prenatal care.
Which is pretty incredible.
And you want to know what’s even cooler? Because of CHM’s “Bring-a-Friend” program, we haven’t had to pay the monthly fee almost all year.
So even taking into account our monthly share, our out of pocket costs for all healthcare were very, very low.
Although there are some frustrations that come with being self-pay, when I look at the numbers, this is the only health care solution that really makes sense to me for our family – especially for maternity.
We would have paid around $2000 a month for insurance with a deductible around $6000 – and total out-of-pocket over that.
We saved so much money using CHM, and in my opinion, was 100% worth doing.
No, it’s not insurance. But honestly, I think it’s better. At least for us!
With CHM, you are responsible for the first $400 of any medical event. However, if your bill is higher than that and you negotiate $400 or more in discounts, that responsibility gets wiped out. Clearly, pregnancy care costs WAY more than that, and our discounts were far and above that amount.
Christian Healthcare Ministries Average Maternity Sharing Time
CHM says they will take anywhere from 90-120 days to share your bills – for any situation.
We have been getting our bills shared within about 90 days of submission, so I’ve been pretty happy with that. I’m sure it will depend on the time of year, though, and how many other unmet needs there are.
Keep in mind that if they ask for a correction to a bill (for instance, if the bill you submitted didn’t have the CPT codes), you will have a shorter window of time to submit them.
Most of our experience with my pregnancy went very smoothly.
Before I even got pregnant, I reached out to different OBGYN offices in my area and inquired about whether or not they were familiar with health shares.
I think this played a HUGE part in our success with using a health share. We found an excellent office nearby that was very familiar with the process and already had a great system in place.
It was so nice not to have to explain every time we went into the office that we were self-pay but would be reimbursed through our health share. They already got how it worked!
Pretty early on in my pregnancy, I spoke with their financial person. They had a set “Global Pregnancy Fee” (sometimes referred to as a stork package) that we talked about.
The total bill wasn’t due until the baby was born, but as soon as I got the check from CHM, I paid it off.
The payment we agreed on included my prenatal care, postpartum visits (at both two and six weeks), as well as the provider fees for delivering the baby.
It DID not include ultrasounds or labs, so that’s something to discuss with your provider. All of these things were shared by CHM (they include two ultrasounds unless complications indicate more are needed), we just had to submit these bills separately.
If you are in the Denver area, I strongly recommend Bella Natural Women’s Care.
There were multiple times that I had to contact CHM with questions, and they were always really quick to get back to me. A couple of times, we were required to pay something fast in order to get a discount, and they were able to work with me to get this worked out.
I think that health share ministries are getting more familiar by hospitals and providers. I only had a couple of experiences where people gave me a side-eye and acted like I was crazy. For the most part, people were at least familiar with how they worked.
So far, all my bills have been paid in about 90 days. They quote you about 90-120 days from the time you submit your bills, so I’ve been pleased with that turn around time.
The only problem I really had was keeping track of all the bills I had to submit. This got a little confusing – but primarily because I’m not super organized. Some health shares just have your provider submit the bills directly to them, which I think would have made my life a little easier. But it wasn’t *that* big of a deal.
I am two months postpartum, and I have already been reimbursed for almost all of my pregnancy-related bills – now I’m just waiting for some of the birth and pediatric related bills to be paid, which should be coming within the next month or two.
Although I sometimes had to pay for things upfront or at the time of service, I eventually have gotten reimbursed.
Fortunately, for larger bills, I was typically able to on a payment plan.
My family pays $450 a month (and that’s the most we’ll pay – even if we have more kids!), and, like I said, we got several months for free because of the CHM “bring-a-friend” program.
I really do like how health shares are run, and that’s a big selling point to me. But really, the overall cost savings was the biggest reason we felt this was a good decision for our family.
Flexibility with who I could see
With CHM, I could really go to any provider and/or hospital that I wanted.
This isn’t the case with all health shares and definitely not the case with most insurance companies. There is usually a select group of physicians or hospitals you are allowed to go to and see.
I loved that I had the freedom to see whoever I wanted (that was willing to work with a self-pay patient). I was able to go to a clinic that was very much in-line with my beliefs regarding life and pregnancy and just had so much dignity and respect for everyone that came into the office.
When I was pregnant with Oliver, it was just a very negative experience with the healthcare provider I went to – and I didn’t have much say in who I saw. So to be able to select an office that I really trusted and felt comfortable with made a huge difference, especially when my pregnancy got more difficult.
CHM is very helpful
I dealt with a lot of really frustrating people as I tried to figure out our bills and discounts, but our interactions with CHM were always pleasant and easy. This was so refreshing!
Okay, I don’t know if all of these things can really be considered “bad” – just some downsides
Working with certain providers
Between my pregnancy and the two surgeries our family had in 2018, I’ve worked with a lot of medical provider’s billing departments.
Some companies make it so easy and pleasant – they automatically apply a generous discount, make it easy to set up an online payment plan, etc.
But others? Oh, it’s like they thought I was trying to get away with murder. Ridiculous turn around time to pay thousands of dollars in order to get a discount, not allowing us to do payment plans…such a pain!
You do have to be on top of things and make a lot of phone calls – and it can be easily overwhelming.
With that said, when we had “real” insurance, I was on the phone a lot. I think that just comes with the territory of medical bills.
Having to wait 90-120 days
This is something I was well aware of when I signed up with CHM and when I got pregnant. It’s just the way it works – you just have to plan accordingly.
People not understanding health shares
This goes for providers and just people in general. When I’ve expressed frustrations about billing departments or having to pay crazy amounts of money upfront, some have suggested that we were irresponsible in not having insurance.
People just don’t understand how health share works and how beneficial it is toward our family. It doesn’t take away the frustrations that come from working with difficult billing processes!
It’s frustrating when we’d be working with some provider or hospital, and they’d act like we were insane when we’d explain the process. Or how many phone calls we’ve gotten on a daily basis asking us to signup for insurance or medical assistance programs.
You have to submit all the expenses and forms
Some health shares will have your provider submit your bills directly to them. That does seem nice!
With CHM, I have to scan and submit all my bills through their portal. It just takes time and can be a bit cumbersome. Again, something I was familiar with already – it just would be nice if it was a *little* simpler.
I know some people who use CHM or another health share and just forget to submit all their bills – or on time.
Find a health-share friendly provider
This made a HUGE difference in my experience during my pregnancy. Do your research beforehand and find someone who gets it.
My OB office was wonderful. Everyone always gave me self-pay prices right off the bat, they never acted like I wasn’t going to pay them, and it was just a very positive experience.
Shop Around for Hospitals
There were a couple of hospitals I could deliver at, so I decided to check out their self-pay prices before I decided.
It was crazy the difference. One hospital was more than twice the amount of the hospital I delivered at.
While CHM would have allowed me to deliver at either, I just felt like it was a better choice to go with the one who had a more generous self-pay price, especially because when I asked about experiences in a local group, the reviews were pretty much the exact same for both.
Just be aware that not all hospitals charge the same! And if you are having to foot any of the bill upfront, it will make a difference.
Setup payment plans early
The earlier you get things arrange, the earlier you can get reimbursement, and the happier everyone is.
It’s also important just in case you have to make a payment before services are rendered.
For instance, I took too long to decide on what hospital to deliver at – and then it took over a month of going back and forth the financial person at the hospital to come to an agreement (she was out of town for a good chunk of that time).
They required that we paid everything before I had the baby, and at that point, my due date was less than 90 days away. So I had to talk with CHM to make other arrangements. Had we made the agreement earlier, it wouldn’t have been as big of an issue.
It just makes for a smoother pregnancy and delivery when you have your agreements made early on.
Figure out who the hospital contracts out to
This is one I didn’t think about until AFTER I had the baby, and it’s been the biggest nightmare.
Although my hospital prepayment agreement was arranged – that didn’t include providers that were contracted out, such as the pediatrician, anesthesiology, etc.
Had I contacted them beforehand, I may have been able to get the ball rolling faster and arranged better payments. For instance, the anesthesiology bill for an epidural came at us at nearly $7,000, which was more than twice what we paid the hospital for my entire delivery and stay!
Get everything in writing
I have had so many issues when dealing with billing where they say they’ll give me a discount, and then they don’t. Make sure you get everything in writing and save ALL your payment confirmation numbers. I’m still having trouble with one company that is saying I didn’t pay, when my credit card clearly says otherwise 🙂
Make sure your bills always have the CPT codes and discounts
I have had a few bills sent back from CHM because they didn’t have all the correct information.
For instance, I had an itemized bill from my OBGYN office, and while most of the CPT codes were on there, one of them was a “bundled” code, so it wasn’t a code recognized by CHM.
Sometimes you have to hound the billing office to get the correct information. I’m still going back and forth with the pediatric department about getting a bill with the CPT codes and discounts. They keep sending me the weirdest things and saying they are what I need (and they wouldn’t even send me a document showing the discounts they were giving until I paid).
Pay office for labs
If you pay a lab directly for a blood draw, it will almost always be WAY more expensive. Your doctor’s office should get a better deal, and if you can pay them directly for the test, you will save a lot.
Always try and get 30% – contact CHM to help with negotiation
You can almost always get at least 30% – if they act like you can’t, push a little harder. I have gotten up to 60% off the listed price.
If you have trouble with negotiating, you can always contact CHM, and they can help you.
Know if any costs are required upfront
As I’ve already mentioned, make sure you figure out if certain bills have to be paid before services are rendered.
Set up payment plans
Sometimes you will have to pay bills quickly in order to get a discount. If it’s under $1000, CHM will encourage you to get put on a payment plan until you get reimbursement.
Set your payment plan up for the longest amount of time possible for the lowest payment available. It can be a bit discouraging to have to be on so many payment plans, but you will be reimbursed!
Get points from credit card
We have paid all our bills with our credit card so we can get points. I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you are able to pay off that credit card each month – but for us, this has been a silver lining for having to pay some things before we get our reimbursement check.
Other Health shares
I’ve shared my thoughts on some other health shares out there in this post. I do think that CHM was the best for our family.
One that I’ve run into recently is Zion Health. It has a different setup than CHM, and it won’t work for everyone – but it does have some things I like more than CHM. So if you are still considering other options, Zion Health seems like a great alternative to me.
I hope that this is helpful to anyone who is considering using CHM for their pregnancy!