Monday, August 15, 2016

Is Sharing (Really) Caring?

I was recently invited to represent a so-called "health care sharing ministry." These plans (about which Bob has written, most recently here) are considered ACA-"exempted" plans, meaning that although they don't meet the stringent ACA coverage requirements, they are nonetheless deemed "kosher" [ed: Heh] for ObamaTax purposes.

These plans essentially rely on the kindness of others to help folks pay for care. What's different (and somewhat appealing) with this one, offered by Altrua Healthshare is that it seems more structured than the ones I've seen previously, and from an agent's point of view, more attractive:
Broad Network
• EXEMPT from Affordable Care Act
• Purchase all year, not just during open enrollment
• Very affordable memberships
• Available in all 50 states
• Pays great commissions

That last is important, as carriers continue withholding commissions, especially for "off-season" enrollments.

There are several things I do like about this particular iteration: first, they are non-denominational, meaning that they are open to different "flavors" of Christianity. Of course, this leaves folks like yours truly out in the cold as far as actually joining, but it may be attractive to my Christian clients (which most are, of course).

I also like that they set things up to mirror ACA metallic tier plans: Gold, Silver, Bronze. And it seems affordable, with rates for even "Gold" level plans available in the low $200's (per month). This is at least partially due to the fact that it's medically underwritten:

"Some individuals may not be eligible or have a membership limitation due to certain past or present medical conditions."

Of course, I have some significant reservations, the most important of which is that this is not insurance (and to be fair, they make this perfectly clear up front):

"Altrua HealthShare members understand that Altrua HealthShare is NOT an insurance company and each member remains self-pay" [emphasis in original]

This presents a problem for me as an agent: if I recommend it, and the client blows past the $1 million lifetime maximum, or the plan fails to pay as set forth, then it seems to me that I've opened myself up to quite the E&O (Errors and Omissions) claim. It's rather like the argument about going "bare" in that I walk a very thin line between understanding a client's financial situation and recommending a potentially risky alternative.

A couple other thoughts from Bob:

First, the Idaho DOI shut down Altrua in the Gem State in 2011. It's not clear to me whether that's been resolved [ed: although the fact that it's touted as being available in "all 50 states" certainly implies that].

Second, he says "I like the concept, but hate the upside risk to client and and agent. I've suggested them in the past with caveats. A few have enrolled in a plan but none have really tested one yet."

And there's this:

"All low price insurance (and non-insurance) is great until you really need it."


[Hat Tip: Cornerstone]
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