# Health Care Sharing Ministries Comparison Part 1: Religious and Ethical Standards

I was tempted to call this post “sex, drugs, and worship,” but thought it might leave way too many people disappointed.  One of the first questions for anyone considering participation in an HCSM is whether they can honestly agree with the religious and/or ethical standards laid out for the group.  This post will outline those religious and ethical standards for each of the sharing organizations.

WARNING: This series of posts about health insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Many of the plans have several general philosophical principles, but the ones I want to discuss here are the binding religious and ethical standards that pertain to membership.  Some are absolute–like abstaining from illegal drug or tobacco use–while others are more subjective, like agreeing not to abuse alcohol.  We’ll start with the easiest ones first.

Before diving in, just to keep things simple: so far as the qualifications, Liberty1 and AlieraCare2 use the exact same language.  When referring to Liberty, know that the same applies to AlieraCare.

# Tobacco

All of the sharing organizations prohibit tobacco use while a member. Samaritan Ministries3 makes an exception for a rare celebratory cigar or pipe, giving the example of the birth of a baby.  Medi-Share4 requires that members have not used tobacco in the preceding 12 months.

# Alcohol

All of the sharing organizations address alcohol use in some form.  Medi-Share requires that members not abuse alcohol, and that they haven’t in the preceding 12 months.  Christian Healthcare Ministries5 and Liberty HealthShare require that you follow scriptural teachings on the use/abuse of alcohol.  In the case of Liberty, that requirement is more lenient, as one of the shared beliefs is that you have the right to worship in your own way.  Altrua 6 simply requires that you not consume in excess.

Samaritan Ministries requires you to choose one of two options.  Option 1 is to abstain from all beverages containing alcohol, with wine used for communion as the only exception.  Option 2 is to “limit consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts so as to never drink to drunkenness.”  There’s no sense in choosing option 1, as it’s more restrictive than option 2, unless you want to increase your likelihood of getting kicked out.

# Drug Use

All of the sharing organizations have some requirement related to drug use:

• Christian Healthcare Ministries Abstain from illegal use of drugs.  This presumably addresses both use of illegal drugs as well as illegal or excessive use of prescription or over-the-counter medicine.
• Medi-Share Drug use is addressed under a prohibition on unhealthy lifestyles.  Illegal drug use is explicitly prohibited, along with abuse of prescription and OTC medicine.  Applicants must attest that neither illegal drug use or illegal use of legal drugs has occured in the preceding 12 months.
• Samaritan Ministries No abuse of legal or prescribed substances, total abstention of illegal drugs and recreational use of marijuana.  While the prohibition on illegal drug use would seemingly include a prohibition on the use of medical marijuana, the wording gives rise to possibly permitting it.
• Liberty/AlieraCare This one is a little complex, in that it names quite a few substances.  Unlike the others, abuse of prescription drugs is defined.  Abuse is “consuming prescription medications in a manner not intended by the prescriber that would likely result in bodily harm or dependency.”  That means that simply using a medicine in a different manner than prescribed by itself wouldn’t be abuse.
• Altrua “The use of any form of illicit drugs is harmful to the body and soul.”

# Health/Exercise

These requirements are very imprecise.  Generally, they require something in regard to doing things to maintain your health.  Obviously, with shared costs, anything that can be done to stay healthy benefits the member directly, and reduces the long-term costs associated with sharing.

• Christian Healthcare Ministries No explicit requirement.
• Medi-Share “Members should strive to maintain healthy lifestyles”
• Samaritan Ministries Members “agree to practice good health measures in accordance with the principle that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
• Liberty/AlieraCare “Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods that do not harm the body.”
• Altrua “We keep our bodies clean and healthy with proper nutrition.”

# Marriage and Sex

Now that you’ve eaten healthy and exercised, let’s head to the bedroom. Liberty HealthShare and AlieraCare stand out from the others as the only ones that don’t require or imply requiring sex within traditional marriages.

• Christian Healthcare Ministries No specific requirement, however they require that you be “a person who embraces and follows the teaching of the New Testament in its entirety.”  This presumably prohibits sex outside of marriage, as well as non-traditional marriages among members.
• Medi-Share “Sexual relations only within a Biblical Christian Marriage.”  This doesn’t explicitly define Biblical Christian Marriage, but the use of capitalization implies that they have something in mind.  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
• Samaritan Ministries No sexual activity “outside of traditional Biblical marriage as designed by God between one man and one woman.”  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
• Liberty/AlieraCare No requirements related to sexual activity or marriage.
• Altrua Marriage must be between a man and a woman; no sex outside of marriage.

# Worship

Some of the sharing organizations have requirements for worship; however, this carries very little practical weight except in the case of Samaritan Ministries.

• Christian Healthcare Ministries “must attend group worship regularly as health permits.”  Does not require organized church service–this could be a bible study or other similar gathering.
• Medi-Share No specific worship requirement.
• Samaritan Ministries Members must “attend a Christian church regularly (at least three out of four weeks per month that your health or weather permits).”  Samaritan Ministries requires an annual statement from your pastor supporting your claim to meet this requirement.
• Liberty/AlieraCare No specific worship requirement.
• Altrua No specific worship requirement.

# Summary of Religious and Ethical Standards

Liberty HealthShare easily has the least restrictive membership requirements.  Smokers will have a tough time on any plan, but Liberty HealthShare does accept smokers as members, charges an extra \$80/month fee, and assigns you a health coach to help you quit.  Others may as well, but the criteria are less clear.  In general, outside of Samaritan Ministries, none of the requirements are very difficult to meet or to keep up with.  If pre-marital sex or non-traditional relationships come into play, the field narrows quickly.

#### Footnotes

1. Liberty HealthShare https://member.libertyhealthshare.org/content/Sharing-Guidelines.pdf