Ask the CHM staff: Why is CHM unique?

By Dave Tschantz, Vice President & General Counsel

In last month’s article, I discussed that CHM is a voluntary cost-sharing ministry, not health insurance, and how we are different from insurance. What makes CHM unique among health cost sharing ministries is something important for you to know, whether you’re a member or prospective member.

The principal differences between Christian Healthcare Ministries and other health cost sharing ministries—or organizations that claim to do health cost sharing—are firmly rooted in CHM’s emphasis on ministry, transparency and member protection. These are the most significant of those differences:

1. CHM doesn’t use insurance agents

2. Provision for pre-existing conditions

3. CHM membership costs are unrelated to age, weight or health status

4. No pro-rated bills

5. CHM uses no third-party vendors in administering services to members

6. CHM doesn’t compare itself to insurance or insurance products

7. Submission of Form 990s and independent audits

Let's look at each of these in a little more detail.

1. CHM doesn’t use insurance agents

Since CHM isn’t health insurance, we don’t contract with, incentivize, or authorize insurance agents to “sell” CHM to prospective members. CHM offers no insurance products; therefore, we encourage you to report to us any insurance agent who claims to have the ability to “sell” CHM to prospective members. Insurance agents are not, and will never be, allowed to do so.

2. Programs for pre-existing conditions*

CHM has two programs under which medical bills arising out of maintained pre-existing conditions may be shared:

The Gold level has a three-year schedule which shares a total of $50,000 for pre-existing conditions under maintenance care. Apart from changes in membership levels, and if the member is in good standing, once three years have elapsed, a condition is no longer considered pre-existing.

The second program is the Prayer Page, under which CHM members voluntarily donate to share in paying bills for other members’ pre-existing conditions that meet Prayer Page guidelines. One-hundred percent of these donated funds go toward medical bill payments. In 2019, CHM members donated more than $6.3 million to the Prayer Page, satisfying approximately 4,600 fellow members’ medical bills.

3. CHM membership costs are unrelated to age, weight or health status

No one is denied CHM membership or has their membership level changed because of age or health status. CHM never sets or increases a member’s financial gift amount based on age, weight, or any other health-related reason. CHM’s financial gift amounts are fixed and non-discriminatory; they are not increased when members age or experience expensive health conditions. No one is ever “cancelled” or removed from CHM membership for an expensive health condition.

4. No pro-rated bills

CHM never pro-rates medical bill reimbursements to members based on the amount of financial gifts sent to CHM, but shares the full amount in under 75 days.

5. CHM uses no third-party vendors in administering services to members

CHM does not employ or contract with third-party vendors in the areas of member recruitment, management of membership rolls, or in the administration of the financial gift process. This safeguard means that no for-profit individual or organization is being enriched through members’ financial gifts. If a ministry contracts with a third-party vendor to recruit members or administer the ministry’s bill sharing process, it’s possible for the vendor to reap a financial windfall. Therefore, CHM does not engage in any such arrangement.

6. CHM doesn’t compare itself to insurance or insurance products

Since CHM isn’t insurance, we go to great lengths not to compare our ministry to insurance. Health insurance, with its contracts and guarantees, is the choice of many people as a vital component of the overall American healthcare cost solution. Because CHM is different from insurance, it is not valid for CHM to make pricing, service, or any such comparisons of itself to insurance. Accordingly, the only reference you will find to health insurance on the CHM website (chministries.org) informs visitors that CHM isn’t insurance.

7. Submission of IRS Form 990s and independent audits

Though not required to do so, CHM complies with the corporate responsibility guidelines of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed by Congress in 2002, by annually filing a IRS Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. Additionally, CHM’s operational model, at the direction of the CHM Board of Directors, is audited annually by an independent auditing firm. The annual audit report is furnished to interested parties upon request.

In the coming months, I’ll share with you each of CHM’s ministry standards so that you are confident we are operating in such a way that glorifies God and best serves you.

*Editor’s note: For more information regarding pre-existing conditions—including the definition of a pre-existing condition, the difference between active and maintenance, and eligibility—please visit our page on pre-existing conditions.

Next month: CHM’s ministry standards (part 1)

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