It’s no secret that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has not been everything that many hoped it would be. Every day, I read more about people’s premiums soaring.

Many simply pay the penalty every year because they can’t afford the monthly premiums and still afford other things — you know, like food. And rent.

After losing my health insurance five years ago due to divorce, I simply saved money every month specifically for medical bills and promptly found a doctor who accepted self-pay patients at a reasonable rate. I have had good health and have only seen him two times in the past five years.

But this was before there was a penalty for not having insurance. When the Affordable Care Act was introduced, I went online to check out the prices.

It was going to cost almost $400 a month for insurance — just for me! Uhhhh, no. Not possible.

I paid the penalty that year and kept growing my own savings for medical bills. As the penalties increased each year, I began looking into my options. The Affordable Care Act felt anything but affordable.

A Facebook friend mentioned that he and his family had switched over to a Christian health care sharing ministry, and that he was very pleased. I decided to check out a few of them and see what they offered.

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There are a growing number of companies that offer health sharing plans, and many of these satisfy the requirement for health insurance. This means that you avoid the tax penalty for not having coverage. Plus, you get to participate with other people of faith to share in medical costs.

Some see this as a huge problem because these ministries are not regulated in the same way that insurance companies are. Technically, they aren’t insurance plans at all, so coverage is not guaranteed.

As you can imagine, there are many in the insurance industry who don't think these plans are a good idea.

Typically, faith-based sharing plans require some level of agreement with a statement of faith and standard of behavior. Some groups may require that you not use tobacco or abuse alcohol. Others go further in their expectations that you adhere to biblical principles, such as refraining from sex outside of marriage.

There are a growing number of companies that offer health sharing plans, and many of these satisfy the requirement for health insurance.

If you are in agreement with the tenets of the organization, you are generally good to go. After looking over a number of options such as Samaritan Ministries, Medi-Share, and Liberty HealthShare, I decided to go with Christian Health Care Ministries (CHM).

It offered a super low-cost option of only $45 a month. It comes with a $5,000 deductible each year, but this is doable for me because I’ve been saving money to go toward medical expenses for so long. As my health continues to be good, I’m comfortable with “catastrophic coverage” that is actually affordable.

CHM also offers other levels of coverage that are more in line with traditional insurance plans. The monthly premiums are higher, but the deductible is very low.

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Other than being affordable, there are a couple of things that I love about being a member of CHM. For starters, every month when I get the statement in the mail, I get a card. It gives me the name and address of someone who has a specific health need. This allows all of the members of CHM to pray for the family.

Each month, I take the time to pray for the individual and their family. I usually write out a note letting them know I am thinking of them. I feel such a connection to the other members of CHM. As a Christian, I am thankful to have the opportunity to pray for someone in real need.

I also like the CHM referral program. If someone joins CHM through my referral link, I get a free month on the program. This has already happened a few times, and it’s really nice to get a break on the monthly premiums for telling my friends about something that I use and like.

Faith-based health sharing plans aren’t for everyone. But being a member has saved me a ton of money, and it’s been a huge blessing and benefit to me.

This is part of CentSai's series on health care. For another perspective, read “Can Crowdfunding Help Pay Your Health Care Costs?”

Opting for Short-Term Health Insurance Can Also Save You Money — Check Your Options Here >>