Liberty HealthShare is increasing Share Amounts for the first time in five years. Is it still affordable?

Liberty HealthShare Increasing Share Amounts

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I’ve been blogging about my experience with Liberty HealthShare (LHS) since we joined in November 2016. See the bottom of this post for the other articles I’ve written about our experiences.

I recently received an email from LHS announcing that Share Amounts are increasing as of September 1, 2018. While this stinks, they did point out that they haven’t increased Share Amounts in the five years since the company began. That’s impressive, but also probably means the increases are well overdue. We’ve had occasional problems with their internal operations (bills being misprocessed, reps giving wrong information, etc.), so I think they grew too quickly and suffered from a lack of manpower and training. It’s been taking between 60-90 days for our bills to process recently, so I think they’re just behind. One would hope this infusion of cash will bring much needed improvements in LHS’ operations! Thankfully, for us, the occasional problems have been the exception, not the rule, so we are still very blessed to be with LHS.

Contents:

The Announcement

Here’s the important part of the announcement email, straight from LHS:

Our organization has paid close attention to steadily rising inflation in the healthcare field over the past several years, and we have done our best to adjust and absorb the cost accordingly. However, after extensive deliberation among the executive team and several measures to control costs within the organization, we decided to raise the cost of monthly share amounts for existing members by $50 a month and to raise the AUA to:

  • Single: $1,000
  • Couple: $1,750
  • Family: $2,250

We believe this is the best choice for the continued sustainability of our ministry and our capacity to assist members in sharing each other’s costs, yet we recognize that this increase may impact individual households. This change will go into effect on September 1. For those who have joined within the past six months, the new monthly share amount increase will be implemented on their seventh month to allow them time to adjust. For all members, the new AUAs will go into effect at renewal dates on and after September 1, 2018.

New Sharing Amounts

To boil it down, monthly costs will increase by $50 per month for all plans. We are currently paying $399 per month, so our monthly Share Amount will become $449. This amounts to a yearly cost increase of $600.

The Annual Unshared Amount (AUA) is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before LHS begins sharing the cost of your eligible medical bills. Previously, the max AUA for a family of three or more people was $1,500, and our new AUA will become $2,250 per year. This amounts to potentially having to spend another $750 per year before LHS begins covering our eligible medical bills.

This will guarantee to increase our yearly costs by $600 (from $4,788 to $5,388 annually), and we will now have to potentially cover an extra $750 per year before LHS begins sharing our bills.

Our potential max annual out-of-pocket costs went from $4,788 (Sharing Amount) + $1,500 (AUA) = $6,288 to $5,388 (Sharing Amount) + $2,250 (AUA) = $7,638. That’s an increase of $1,350 per year, if we had medical bills in excess of $2,250.

Reaction

No one likes price increases. Same service, but now it costs more. But it’s inevitable, of course. And in LHS’ case, I think it was long overdue. One thing I wish is that it could have increased over time and not come at such a big hit all at once. Potentially spending an extra $1,350 per year is a significant increase and not easy to absorb.

Frankly, I think it will be good in the long run for the AUA to be higher. People are likely to be more careful with their medical spending. Until the AUA is met, you have to pay all that out of pocket. If I don’t have to spend the full $2,250 in a year, I certainly don’t want to! I think it may have been easy for many people to blow through the $1,500 AUA, then have a bunch more care done, knowing that LHS had to cover it.

Compare to Medi-Share and CHM

I went back to Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) to see how LHS’ new Sharing Amounts and AUAs compare to those programs to make sure LHS is still competitive.

Medi-Share

You can use their Share Calculator to get an idea of your potential costs.

A similar program with Medi-Share that we have currently with LHS is Medi-Share’s $3,000 Annual Household Portion plan, which costs $685 per month (standard) or $578 per month on the “healthy monthly share” incentive (must meet certain health standards).

If you can’t meet the “healthy monthly share” incentive, the cost would be $685 per month, for an guaranteed annual cost of $8,220. You could potentially spend up to another $3,000 per year in medical costs before Medi-Share would begin covering your eligible medical bills. Total potential out-of-pocket annual costs of $11,220.

With the “healthy monthly share” incentive, the cost would be $578 per month, for an guaranteed annual cost of $6,936. You could potentially spend up to another $3,000 per year in medical costs before Medi-Share would begin covering your eligible medical bills. Total potential out-of-pocket annual costs of $9,936.

So even with LHS’ increases, I am still saving either $3,582 (vs standard) or $2,298 (vs healthy)

CHM

You can learn more about CHM’s programs on their CHM Levels page.

Their top program is the Gold program at a monthly cost of $150 per unit, per month. A family can be no more than three units, so our monthly cost would be $450 per month, for a guaranteed annual cost of $5,400. If you enroll in the Brother’s Keeper program to take the max coverage per illness from $125,000 to unlimited, the annual cost increases $115, for a total of $5,515.

CHM has no amount that must be met before they share in your medical bills, but the huge caveat here is that CHM only covers incidents that exceed $500. In our situation, we have been very healthy, so our medical visits rarely cost more than about $200. Since the kids each get sick multiple times every year, my wife and I both have a couple/few specialist visits every year, etc., that can add up very quickly. For us, I anticipate our out-of-pocket costs due to illnesses costing less than $500 would be around $1,500 to $2,000 per year.

The total potential out-of-pocket annual costs for us would be $6,900 to $7,400 (depending on yearly out-of-pocket costs ranging from $1,500 to $2,000).

Looks like CHM’s costs are lower, but I’m not crazy about them not covering illnesses that cost below $500. To me, that is a lot of risk, if you have a lot of common illnesses that come along with having kids, like strep, ear infections, flu, etc. Those don’t cost a lot but occur often throughout the year.

According to their guidelines, they send you a monthly statement you have to pay manually. Why they don’t do all of this electronically is beyond me. I hope they do, and it’s just not obvious from their website or guidelines. With LHS, they charge my credit card every month automatically, and they handle all payments between members, pay providers directly for eligible bills, or reimburse you directly for eligible bills you submit.

After LHS’ increase, I would save between $738 and $238 per year with CHM, but with the cons mentioned above, this is not very appealing to me. If you’re only interested in cost savings, you should probably check into CHM.

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that costs always rise, and LHS is not exempt. It’s also unfortunate they had to increase our costs so much, so fast. I wish it would have been spread out more.

After comparing LHS’ new rates with the other healthcare sharing ministries, I still feel comfortable staying with LHS for now. Their costs are competitive with the other programs, and I have had such great experiences with LHS in how they handle medical bills for me, disburse payments to other members for me, and handle re-pricing bills to save cost.

Learn More about Liberty HealthShare

I’ve been blogging about my experience with Liberty HealthShare, so feel free to read my posts!

Referral

If the information I’ve provided here has been helpful to you, and you feel Liberty HealthShare could work for you and your family, please give me a shout, and I can provide you my member ID for when you sign up. Liberty offers a $100 gift card for referrals!

Questions?

What do you think about LHS increasing their Share Amounts? Did it make you start looking elsewhere, or did you also discover the new rates are competitive? If you’ve got any questions or an experience of your own, let’s discuss in the comments below!