How We Saved $36,000 on Medical Bills in One Year

Life is expensive. Medical bills are expensive. Debt is scary. God is good.

Christian Healthcare Ministries has been such a HUGE blessing to us. They saw us through a cross country move and the birth of our second son. Of an almost $37,000 hospital bill, they reimbursed all but about $50. Worried about the expense that comes with childbirth? Read below to see if this could be the solution for you!

The Backstory

To make a long story short, we found ourselves searching for health insurance in 2017 after Paul accepted a new job. We found that our best option was to pick up health insurance through the Marketplace (aka Obamacare). The monthly premiums weren’t horrid, and we decided to pick up their silver plan (in other words, not the best plan but not the worst, either). We could afford the monthly premiums, and we found that our insurance covered what it needed to at the time (such as routine office visits, vaccines, etc.). However, our deductible was reeeeally high. It was high enough that we knew that we’d either have to save for years or go pretty far into debt if we hoped to have another baby.

The end of 2017 came, and we received the notice that our premiums had tripled. We were looking at paying over $1,000 a month for the three of us. Not only that, the coverage hadn’t gotten any better. I think when I was comparing it, we were looking at paying a minimum of $7,000 out of pocket as our deductible. So, we began to pray and search for alternatives.

What is Christian Healthcare Ministries?

Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM) is a healthcare cost sharing group. Health sharing groups in no way boast to be insurance. By their own definition, this is what they are: “CHM is an affordable, biblical, and compassionate healthcare cost solution for Christians in all 50 states and around the world. We’re not health insurance; rather, we're the first and longest-serving health cost sharing ministry, having shared more than $3.5 billion in our members’ medical bills.” In basic terms, they don’t act as insurance. Rather, you incur your medical bills, and they reimburse you for the cost of those bills.

How Do You Pay Your Providers?

WHAT?!?! Doctors don’t work for free??? The nerve (severe sarcasm incase you didn’t catch it). Alright, so yes. If you’ve been to the doctor, you know you have to pay. If you’ve had traditional insurance, you typically show the front desk your insurance card, you pay a co-pay, they bill your insurance, and you patiently wait it out a few weeks/months until your final doctor’s bill arrives. With CHM, you’re technically considered a self-pay patient. So, when you go to the doctor, you explain that to them. I normally tell them that I go through CHM (possibly give a short description if they look nervous), but I then explain that I am technically a self pay patient. At that point, you either pay your total up front or they bill you after your visit.

Once I explain that I’m self pay, I ask if they offer any discounts for self pay patients. I’ve found that most doctors offer fairly good discounts. In Virginia, I often got discounts up to 50% if I paid within a certain time frame. If they don’t offer you a discount, or if the amount is still pretty high, CHM recommends that you ask to go on a payment plan. You then make minimum payments on your account until you are able to submit the bill to CHM and they reimburse you for the bill.

They have guidelines of what they will and will not cover, and they’re pretty straight forward with you about what won’t be covered. After a rather lengthy and prayerful search, we decided to go with CHM because they had the best maternity program of all the sharing groups. With their gold program, they cover 100% of the cost after you pay the first $500 out of pocket or receive the equivalent in discounts (there are a few exceptions, but not many of what they’ll cover). More on this in a moment.

How Much Does It Cost?

We signed the whole family up, but we got different levels for each of us. A level is how much you pay in premiums each month along with your out of pocket cost if you have a claim. CHM details all that on their website here. I got the gold program for myself (required for solid maternity coverage) and the silver program for Paul and Beau (cool note: when you sign up for coverage, you apply for yourself, your spouse, and your children. Your children are all covered under the same level at one cost. So, if you choose to cover them under the gold program, you’re paying the same amount wether you have one or multiple children. Here’s the link to calculate costs). It was the cost effective thing to do, and it ensured that I was covered with the best coverage if God blessed us with another baby (***Note: CHM requires you to be signed up prior to becoming pregnant to ensure coverage. Again, check out their website for full details.).

Our premiums with CHM were $320 a month ($150 for me at the gold level and $85 for each Paul and Beau). June of 2018, we found out I was pregnant with our sweet baby Jude! We were over the moon! But, I’ll admit, I was a bit anxious about starting my healthcare journey without traditional insurance. Through the ministry, I was technically a self-pay customer anytime I went to the doctor, and many healthcare providers don’t take too well to that. Luckily for me, I didn’t incur many issues. My providers tried working with me the best they could.

Submitting Bills For My Pregnancy

From June to December, I was strictly a self pay, CHM customer. I let the hospital in Virginia know that I was self pay, and they would bill me at the self pay rate. They actually gave very good discounts when they found out I didn’t have insurance. I just had to ask. They typically ran around 50% off. I would then pay the minimum payments on my bills while I submitted them to CHM and waited to be reimbursed. Submitting bills was pretty easy. You could either mail them in with their mandatory forms, or you could just upload them online. Now, it takes CHM about four months to reimburse any expense, so you either need to save up money so you can pay the minimum payments before you’re reimbursed, or you need to be brave and put those minimum payments on a 0% APR credit card and pay that big daddy off ASAP once your funds come in. I’m a big Dave Ramsey follower and don’t advocate credit cards because they’re really just a form of bondage, but you DO need to pay your providers and get great healthcare, so you’d need to have a plan in place to take care of that.

January of 2019, Paul found a new job and we moved to Texas. There were so many unknowns in this equation. With the new job came health insurance, and I was elated! However, we felt that CHM was an answer to prayer, and we kept me on it while also enrolling in the insurance. I spoke with the CHM staff, and they reassured me that I could keep both. I was to bill the insurance first, and once they let me know what I still owed, I would submit the remaining bills to CHM. As a side note, I think this is one of the greatest things about CHM. There was never a fear that our moving or switching jobs would affect our healthcare coverage. Rather, our plan moved with us, and we just kept on. Traditional insurance is just not that simple. For that reason, I really believe this is a great plan for anyone who is self employed or moves around a lot.

In March of 2019, I gave birth to our perfect little boy. He was beautiful! With the knowledge that CHM would reimburse me for the cost of the birth/hospital stay, I could confidently choose the best of the best in hospitals. I remember being in the hospital and just breathing a sigh or relief that the breakfast I had ordered that morning wouldn’t set my family back three days pay (exaggeration) because CHM was looking out for us. I consider myself frugal, but one thing I don’t skimp on is healthcare. The birth, by definition, was completely normal. Nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary, which was a huge answer to prayer.

After all was said and done, my total care came to $36,310.50. This included the the whole shebang- prenatal, postnatal, delivery, hospital stay, and all of the baby’s bills from the hospital. This is the unedited, before discount total. Between discounts and insurance, it took $27,348.12 off of my payment. So, the portion I was to pay out of pocket after insurance/discounts was $8,962.38. Yeah, man! Still high, but better than $36,000! I carefully followed the CHM guidelines and submitted all my bills as they came in. I showed them what the original cost was of each bill, what the insurance negotiated with them, the discounts I received, and how much the insurance paid. I would then detail the exact amount I was then billed for. I am pleased to let you know that CHM sent me two checks that paid a total of $8668.05! The only thing I was denied coverage on was a vaccination, but it was no surprise as it was stated in their guidelines. As of this post, that left me with $294.33 to pay, and I’m waiting on one last check that I expect to cover that amount.

I know my story is a little different than most because we had traditional insurance at the time of the birth, as well. However, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that had I not had traditional insurance, CHM would have covered me just as well- if not better- than my insurance had. I had so much fear that this program wouldn’t work, and we would be stuck with tons of debt. I can safely say that all these fears were taken away and God had us covered the whole time. I would highly, highly recommend CHM to anyone expecting to have children in the next couple of years or even as general health coverage. Though this post only covers how we used this program for a maternity need, it works very similarly with other illnesses and needs. Their staff was helpful, submitting bills was relatively easy, and they actually pay out as they promise. There is so much I left out, but if you’re interested, I recommend you check out their site. They discuss what they do and do not cover and how their program works at https://www.chministries.org

I don’t generally share things as personal as finance with people. It’s weird to me and kind of freaks me out. However, it’s my hope that by being transparent and sharing my personal experience with you in detail that it will help lessen the burdens of others that are praying for children or just looking for better healthcare options. Yeah, it’s stressful. Having a baby is such a blessing, and CHM treats it as such.

My last plug for CHM because I believe in it so highly- people and organizations are known by their works, not just the talk they talk. CHM has such an amazing maternity program, and it’s obvious that they believe in and hold the value of a life.

If you’re thinking of joining, click my link to apply! http://www.chministries.org/default.aspx?mem=362675

Have questions? Ask me!

Xx Olivia

Note: These views and experiences are my own and are in no way are sponsored by Christian Healthcare Ministries. For complete information on how their ministry works, please visit their site at https://www.chministries.org