This Liberty HealthShare review is an accurate portrayal of our experience as Liberty HealthShare members. Since we believe honesty is the best policy, please note that we do receive a fee for referring you. We hope you find the piece helpful, and please let us know if you have any questions!
Are you struggling with your healthcare situation?
Trust me, I know the feeling.
Open enrollment for health insurance is back, and you can count me as underwhelmed. If you’re stuck searching for an affordable plan on the open market – news flash – the options ain’t pretty.
Every year, I check the available health insurance options for my family. Each year, I come away feeling more disappoitned than the last.
Depending on where you live, premiums are increasing, benefits are being slashed, and many insurers are pulling out of the marketplace altogether. In many places, including my own area, potential customers have just one insurer available to them. Faced with huge monthly premiums, high deductibles, and restricted networks, it’s safe to say that families around the country are feeling the pinch.
Like many of you, we found ourselves in a difficult situation. That’s when we discovered medical cost sharing ministries, including Liberty HealthShare. Sure, it is an imperfect solution to a difficult problem, but we’ve been using LHS for about six years and plan to use them again in 2020.
With this Liberty HealthShare review, I hope to help others find a solution to this difficult financial challenge. I’ll explain why we chose Liberty HealthShare, how they’ve handled our personal claims, and cover the pros and cons of signing up. I will also attempt to answer some of the most common questions asked about Liberty HealthShare and explain the various sharing options available to members.
Let’s get started!
Liberty HealthShare: At a Glance
- Healthcare sharing ministry
- In existence since 1995
- Members share medical expenses with other members
- 3 different sharing plans to meet member needs
- Monthly sharing contributions from $199-$529 per month
- Annual unshared amounts – $1,000 single, $1,750 couple, $2,250 family
- Up to $1,000,000 shareable per incident (depending on plan)
- Choose your own doctor; no networks
What is Liberty HealthShare?
Liberty HealthShare is a healthcare sharing ministry whose members share medical expenses. Members pay a monthly “sharing” contribution which pays for the medical expenses of other members. Then, when they have needs, they first must meet an “annual unshared amount” (similar to a deductible) before their expenses are eligible for sharing.
Keep in mind, this is not health insurance nor are you protected by the same insurance rules and regulations that traditional health insurance provides. As with other healthcare sharing groups, Liberty Healthshare members agree to pay for medical expenses by sharing the costs with other members. While not ideal, for our situation, it has easily been the most affordable healthcare option at our disposal.
Liberty HealthShare: How It Works
Unlike the ACA-approved health insurance plans, Liberty HealthShare and other Christian sharing ministries don’t have to accept everyone who applies. (Again, this is not insurance.) They are not required to accept people regardless of pre-existing conditions and they don’t take smokers.
That doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted if you have pre-existing conditions. Those conditions just might not be eligible for sharing right away. Also if you have a chronic health condition, or are otherwise unhealthy due to weight or some other condition, you may be asked to join their provisional program.
In my opinion, this is one of the biggest drawbacks of sharing plans. On the flip side, not accepting those with existing health problems and “risky” lifestyles does help to keep costs down.
With that said, even if you have some of those conditions all is not lost. If you’re serious about becoming healthier, you may still be eligible to join under Liberty’s provisional membership program called HealthTrac™. It’s a “health coaching” option. (We’ll talk a more about this in a bit!)
Submitting Expenses Eligible for Sharing
Additionally, Liberty HealthShare and other healthcare sharing ministries require a little more work on your part. In fact, if may mean taking significantly more action and control than you are used to.
This is important, so pay attention here: When you use a healthcare sharing ministry, YOU are responsible for making sure your medical bills are submitted. This may require a few phone calls.
In many cases, your healthcare provider will submit bills directly to Liberty HealthShare for you. Other times, you will need to scan the bills and upload them into the payment system yourself. LHS makes this easy. Simply log into your personal account/dashboard and add your bills through the “Medical” tab.
Personally, I don’t mind monitoring our healthcare bills myself. I like to keep our spending in check anyway, and it’s super easy to scan and email bills.
On the flip side, I appreciate it when our doctor’s office takes care of this task for us. When we first joined, I would say this responsibility fell us roughly 50 percent of the time. Now that many doctors offices are familiar with patients using cost sharing programs, we rarely need to submit our own bills. Remember, though, it is always your responsibility to check that they have been submitted properly.
With that being said, here’s what my Liberty HealthShare “inbox” looks like:
To see which bills have been submitted, when each was paid, and how much your responsibility might be, simply click on the “Medical” tab in the left menu. There, you’ll find a list of everything you need.
Other than how bills are submitted and the fact that healthcare sharing ministries can be picky about who they accept, the process is very familiar. For example, with Liberty HealthShare, annual wellness visits are included (see the guidelines for details.) While it isn’t always necessary, that concept itself saves us around $600 per year.
Like I mentioned earlier, we also have an “annual unshared amount” that is similar to a health insurance deductible. After we meet that unshared amount, 100% of our costs are shared by the members – up to $1 million dollars per incident, based on the guidelines.
Liberty HealthShare Programs and Options
By and large, Liberty HealthShare offers three different levels of sharing. I’ll explain the one my family chose in a minute, but let’s first take a look at all three.
Liberty Complete is the most comprehensive of the programs. With this option, a family of four with adults over the age of 30 will pay $529 per month, while a younger family with kids would pay just $479 per month. Couples and singles pay even less.
On this program, members share costs up to $1,000,000 per incident or illness based on the guidelines after meeting the “annual unshared amount.” Annual unshared amounts are: $2,250 per family, $1,750 for a couple, or $1,000 for a single member.
Liberty Plus costs a little less each month and offers a correspondingly lower level of sharing. A family of four with adults over the age of 30 would pay $504 per month. A younger family would pay $454, and couples and singles pay even less.
The same annual unshared amounts apply ($2,250 per family, $1,750 for a couple, or $1,000 for a single member). With this program, however, sharing is limited to just $125,000 per incident or illness.
Liberty Share is the lowest tier program. With this sharing option, a family of four with adults over the age of 30 would pay $479 per month, and a younger family would pay $429. Couples and singles still pay less, and the annual deductibles stay the same.
The biggest difference with the Liberty Share program is the way that expenses are handled. Rather than sharing 100% of costs after meeting an annual unshared amount, with this program, medical expenses are shared at only 70% per incident up to $125,000, as per the guidelines.
Keep in mind, with all three sharing programs, there is an annual membership fee that members are required to pay. The initial $125 fee is added to your first month’s sharing contribution and is reduced to just $75 after your first year. That’s really not much but it’s still worth mentioning.
Our Experience with Liberty HealthShare
Now that you know about the Liberty HealthShare plans and options, I thought it might be helpful to learn how my family decided on LHS in the first place.
Shortly after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was rolled out, my family was faced with a near impossible decision. Our old health insurance plan, which cost $393 per month and came with an $11,000 family deductible, was being cancelled because it didn’t meet ACA requirements. Yet, the new Obamacare plans cost more than twice as much AND came with even higher family deductibles to boot!
It quickly became clear that we needed to opt out of the ACA completely. Still we needed a solution to help us cover the cost of catastrophic medical expenses.
After a few months of digging, I discovered how some other families were planning for unforeseen medical bills. The answer: Healthcare sharing ministries. After some serious comparing several healthcare sharing ministries, my family joined Liberty HealthShare in January of 2014.
I wanted to write a Liberty HealthShare review right away, but 2015 was pretty uneventful. Aside from our regular annual visits, none of us went to the doctor. So, I didn’t have a great idea of whether the program was going to work or not.
Fast forward to today, and we’ve been with Liberty HealthShare for about six years. We’ve all of us seen the doctor and have even had a few procedures done – including some major surgeries. Now that we have some real claims history to report, a Liberty HealthShare review makes more sense.
Dealing with Major Surgery
In 2018, we experienced our first major medical need as members of Liberty HealthShare. That summer, my seven-year-old daughter broke her arm. She ended up having surgery at our local children’s hospital, which meant over she racked up over $30,000 in medical bills. (Side note: The children’s hospital would not have been covered under the Bronze ACA plans available in our area.)
Thankfully, Liberty HealthShare and their members helped us share the cost of those bills exactly as we planned.
Now, that’s not to say that everything went perfectly. The process itself was not particularly smooth.
We spent several hours following up with both LHS and doctor’s offices to get these bills paid. Over the course of about ten months, we made multiple calls and sent around a dozen emails. While it was a pain, Liberty ultimately covered their portion of the bills.
For us, the time and hassle spent on these bills was worth it. Because we save thousands on our healthcare through Liberty, we’re willing to put in some additional “leg work” to get our medical bills shared. This is something you should keep in mind before choosing Liberty HealthShare for your healthcare needs.
It’s also important to remember that Liberty HealthShare is not an insurance company. As a member, we don’t simply use different vocabulary; a sharing program is modeled differently. Members share medical costs based on our community guidelines.
Liberty HealthShare is also a faith-based community. At the time of this writing, this medical cost sharing ministry has over 200,000 members.
Liberty HealthShare Advantages
- Low annual unshared amounts: With all Liberty HealthShare plans, your “annual unshared amount” is limited to $2,250 per year for a family, $1,750 for a couple, or $1,000 for singles.
- Know where your healthcare dollars are going: Since healthcare sharing ministries don’t share costs for certain procedures the group finds “morally objectionable,” you can rest assured your dollars are being spent on healthcare procedures you agree with.
- You can see any doctor you want: Liberty HealthShare lets you see any doctor of your choosing. All they ask is that you shop around and negotiate for the best rates.
- Share actual costs: Liberty HealthShare keeps their administrative costs low. A small percentage of sharing dollars are spent on administrative expenses as they examine costs up front. Your sharing dollars are used to pay for the actual medical costs incurred by others in the community.
- Health consciousness: Because Liberty HealthShare members tend to live healthy lifestyles, their costs are typically less. Liberty emphasizes spiritual principles of wellness, health and prevention. Health conscious people tend to have fewer bills, lower costs, and more rapid recoveries.
Liberty HealthShare Disadvantages
- You may not qualify: If you smoke, are obese, or have a chronic health condition, you may not qualify for a healthcare sharing ministry. However, if you are committed to improving your health, you may qualify for HealthTrac™. This is a health coaching program designed to improve your health and may allow you to become a member.
- This is a faith-based community. These programs are faith-based organizations. You must hold similar beliefs to qualify to participate.
- You may not contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA). Unfortunately, since medical cost sharing programs are not health insurance, you are not allowed to contribute tax-free money to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
- You need to monitor your own bills closely. While your doctor’s office may handle your claim for you, you’ll need to monitor your expenses online to make sure they post correctly.
- There are arguments over whether or not your monthly shared amount is deductible if you own a business. Since this is not insurance, some accountants argue you cannot deduct your monthly share amount if you own a business. There is definitely a gray area here.
- Medical cost sharing is not unlimited. Liberty HealthShare members only share costs up to $125,000 or $1,000,000 per illness or incident, based on the group’s guidelines. If you ended up with an incredibly expensive illness or injury, you could potentially blow through that limit fast.
Who Should Consider Liberty HealthShare?
Self-employed business owners – If you are a self-employed owner of a small business, chances are good that your only option for securing health insurance is on the open market. Although it is not “health insurance,” Liberty HealthShare is another option for meeting your family’s healthcare needs in an affordable manner.
Other individuals shopping the healthcare marketplace – Similarly, if you are shopping for a health insurance plan on the open market, are not eligible for subsidies, and don’t like the prices you see, a healthcare sharing ministry could present a possible solution.
Christians wanting to share medical expenses – Liberty HealthShare is a good choice for Christians who are tired of the traditional healthcare system and who, instead, wish to share medical expenses with others hat have similar beliefs.
Who Should Avoid Joining Liberty HealthShare?
Individuals with access to affordable health insurance plans – If you have access to affordable health insurance through work or are eligible for large government subsidies, the added expense of a medical cost sharing program may be unnecessary. (Keep in mind, Liberty HealthShare is not medical insurance.)
People with pre-existing conditions – Because Liberty HealthShare is not medical insurance, they are not required to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. Those with pre-existing medical conditions may be accepted for membership after a period of time, but the added expense of both a health insurance plan and becoming a medical cost sharing member may not be worth it.
Those unwilling or unable to track their medical expenses – It is important to remember that members are ultimately responsible for tracking (and paying) their medical bills. While LHS can be an affordable way to handle your healthcare, it often requires more work on the member’s part to process medical bills. In some cases, you may even need to wait for reimbursement of certain bills. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, you should probably avoid medical cost sharing programs.
Liberty HealthShare Review: Frequently Asked Questions
Since I first posted this review, I’ve received hundreds of comments, emails, and questions about the program. While I’d definitely recommend you contact Liberty HealthShare with questions specific to your personal situation, here are a few of the most common questions I’ve been asked.
1) Is Liberty HealthShare the same as health insurance?
No. Liberty HealthShare is not health insurance. It is a medical cost sharing program in which members share healthcare costs between them. We use Liberty HealthShare to plan for unanticipated medical expenses.
2) So, is Liberty HealthShare a scam?
No. It is very real. In our experience, the members of Liberty HealthShare have shared all our medical expenses that were eligible for sharing per our plan guidelines.
3) Are healthcare sharing ministries a new concept?
No. Healthcare sharing ministries are not new, but rising health insurance costs have definitely made them more popular. Medical cost sharing programs can trace their roots back to the mid-1980s. As a group, Liberty HealthShare’s parent organization (Gospel Light Mennonite Church Medical Aid Plan, Inc.) has been sharing medical costs since 1995.
4) Do I have to belong to a specific Christian denomination to become a member?
No. Compared to some medical cost sharing programs, one of the biggest advantages of joining Liberty HealthShare is that you do NOT need to belong to a specific denomination.
While some sharing ministries require you to be a member of an evangelical church and/or get a signed note from your pastor, Liberty HealthShare simply requires that you agree to a statement of beliefs. This statement essentially says that you believe in God, that all people have a right to worship in their own way, and that people have the right to direct their own healthcare decisions free from government interference.
5) Are there any other lifestyle requirements I need to know about?
Yes. In an effort to keep costs down, Liberty HealthShare members agree to take responsible and reasonable care of their own health. This includes not drinking alcohol excessively, not using tobacco, not abusing illegal drugs or prescription medication, and getting regular exercise.
6) Wait, are you saying I can’t drink or smoke?
As a member, you agree to not drink excessively or abuse alcohol. If you are a tobacco user, you will be required to join the provisional HealthTrac™ program which adds an additional monthly fee. You are given 6 months to become tobacco free. You will also be required to complete nicotine testing.
7) What about pre-existing conditions? Are they eligible for sharing?
Eventually. Liberty HealthShare considers pre-existing conditions to be “any condition at the time of enrollment that has evidenced symptoms, or received treatment or medication in the past 24 months.” Pre-existing conditions are not eligible for sharing your first year of membership. From there, they are gradually eligible for more sharing each year until they receive full sharing status during your fourth year of membership.
8) Do Liberty HealthShare members share dental and vision expenses?
No. Medical cost sharing with Liberty does not extend to dental or vision procedures or expenses. With that said, LHS does partner with the SavNet Health Savings Program to provide discounts for dental, vision, and chiropractic expenses.
9) What about prescriptions?
To keep the cost of prescription drug prices down, Liberty HealthShare members have access to HealthShareRx. The program partners with over 64,000 pharmacies where they can get a 21-day supply of the most common medications for just $5.00. Members can also enjoy savings on long-term maintenance medications with this program.
10) What if I am denied membership due to health reasons?
If something in your application triggers a denial based on your health, you may be eligible to join the Liberty HealthTrac™ program. This program pairs members with a health coach and helps set realistic goals for improving their health.
A monthly participant fee is required for the HealthTrac™ program and will be dropped upon graduation. While everyone is different, Liberty states that they expect to see improvements in the members health within a year.
11) Will my doctor accept Liberty HealthShare?
Unlike health insurance plans, Liberty HealthShare does not have networks. You can use the program with any doctor you choose.
Simply inform them that you are part of a medical cost sharing program, show them your card, and have them send bills directly to Liberty HealthShare. (If you have not met your annual sharing amount, you will still be responsible for the total.)
12) Are there limits on the amount of sharing?
Yes. Members are currently limited to sharing amounts of up to $125,000 or $1,000,000 per incident, depending on the program you select.
13) Will I still have to pay the Obamacare tax penalty?
No. With the passing of the December 2017 tax bill, the Obamacare individual mandate has been repealed, becoming effective in 2019. With that said, if you were a member of a medical cost sharing ministry in 2017 or 2018, you are exempt from the individual mandate for those tax years.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), members belonging to recognized healthcare sharing ministries are exempt from paying the penalty. Simply file IRS Form 8965 with your personal income taxes.
14) Can I cancel my Liberty HealthShare membership at any time or am I obligated to stick with the program?
You can cancel your Liberty HealthShare membership at any time and are under no obligation to continue with the program. Keep in mind that you do pay initial membership dues of $125.00 and annual membership dues each year thereafter of $75.00. Liberty HealthShare allows you to join the program for 30 days risk free. If you cancel within your first 30 days, the membership fee will be refunded. However, canceling after the 30-day period results in a forfeiture of your membership dues.
15) Is there a specific enrollment period or can I join whenever I’m ready?
Unlike Obamacare, you can join Liberty HealthShare at any point during the year.
Liberty Healthshare Review: The Bottom Line
Although I still consider our healthcare options every year, after six years with Liberty HealthShare, our family continues to remain as members. I’m fairly confident we’re making the right decision. We’re saving money every month, and we get to see any doctor of our choosing. As an added bonus, our annual unshared amount is just $2,250.
With that said, the process is far from perfect. Still, Liberty has eventually shared all of our eligible medical expenses as outlined in our plan. Yes, it took some extra effort on our part. But, for us, the extra effort is more than worth the savings we’ve received.
If you’re considering a healthcare sharing ministry, you should definitely compare Liberty with the other options out there. I liked some other comparable programs, but we chose to go with Liberty HealthShare because we felt that the payments and sharing arrangement made sense for our situation. Finally, if you’re struggling under the weight and expense of unreasonable Obamacare plans, it makes sense to shop around as much as you can.
Have you ever heard of healthcare sharing ministries? Would you join one? Why or why not?
Liberty HealthShare Review
Range of Product Offerings
Shareable Amounts per Incident
Annual "Unshared" Amounts
Expense Sharing Process
Liberty HealthShare Review
Liberty HealthShare is a medical cost sharing program that allows members to share their medical expenses with other members. For those who are struggling to find affordable healthcare options, Liberty is certainly an option.
Offering several different plans to meet members financial needs, Liberty HealthShare members pay as little as $199 a month. Annual unshared amounts range from $1,000 for individuals to $2,250 for families. Depending on the plan selected, members may be eligible for medical costs to be shared up to $1M per incident.
Unfortunately, Liberty HealthShare is far from perfect. The process for submitting expenses to be shared can often take months. Members may end up spending a significant amount of time and energy tracking those expenses. Still, if you’re struggling fed up with the expense of healthcare, Liberty HealthShare may provide an imperfect solution for your healthcare needs.