Liberty Health Sharing Update for June

I thought I was going to give just a quick update today, adding in June’s health sharing numbers from Liberty.  Last time, I talked about some new reporting from Liberty, and the financial health of the sharing network taking that into account.  But with the second month of the new reporting format, along with audited financials for 2017, I figured it was time for a more detailed look.

We’ll go over May’s numbers, and look at growth in the health sharing network and how they process claims compared to traditional insurers.

Just a reminder: I’m a Liberty member, not their agent.  You’re getting my analysis and opinions, not theirs.  It’s not right for everyone, and there’s risk (like with any insurance) that you need to understand.

Monthly Health Sharing Update

This part is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of things worth noting.  First, this is the second month with the new breakdown, showing expenses in queue for payment.  This number is essentially unchanged, and suggests that we’re not at a point where we’re “catching up”, but also not “digging deeper.”  Second, you can see that both submitted and shared/satisfied expenses are up, basically making 6 months following that trend.

A little bit of regression (i.e fitting a line to the data), and extrapolating out to the end of the year, we could expect over $40 million paid out just in December, and about$400 million for the calendar year.  That’s small compared to the big five health insurers that collectively insure over 125 million people, but still a significant amount of money flowing in and out.

Significant Growth

As I was updating my spreadsheet where I compile all of the data from the monthly newsletters, I couldn’t help noticing how much the dollar figures have grown.  December 2017 paid out almost $16 million, compared to just over$6 million for the same month in 2016.  That’s two and a half times the sharing!

That begs a look into how much membership has grown.  If membership were constant, those figures would be an indication that costs were skyrocketing and rate increases would be forthcoming.  However, the year-in-review presents essentially the opposite.  Membership growth has been insane.

Take a look at the chart above.  It’s compiled from annual updates and the 2017 Year-in-Review publication from Liberty released this spring, and a video update a year prior.  The first thing you notice is the dramatic increase over just a few months at the end of 2016–adding to its membership by 37% just in November and December.  In 2017, membership more than doubled–going from just less than 40,000 households to over 85,000.

Bill Processing Times

I don’t know how many people Liberty started the year with processing bills, but it would be reasonable to assume they’ve doubled their staffing (or are in the process) during the last year.  That’s pretty serious, and I’ll give them something of a pass when I read the occasional review that complains about response times.  I’ll give them a little more credit for coming right out and saying they aren’t satisfied with processing times, early on in calendar year 2017.  It wasn’t buried in some big financial report either–it was front-and-center in the monthly newsletter.

Even then, those “slow” processing times were on the order of 2 months, which is pretty good when compared to most insurers.  Liberty tries to be better, and sits at 45 days for the second month with a 30-day target.

They don’t publish a breakdown of the number of individual members as compared to couples and families, but they do show that for the 85,121 household members (which includes individuals), there were 204,290 individuals in the health sharing system.  That means 108,794 net new people during 2017, each with a medical history questionnaire reviewed, membership cards produced and mailed, online accounts set up, etc.  It’s not a small undertaking, especially when compared to the total membership going into the year.

Reaching out to Liberty…

As you can see, there are a lot of places where more granular data would be nice.  I’ve reached out to Liberty to see if they’ll release more data.  I’d like to see breakdowns of plan enrollments, more detail of membership growth, and how they staff claims processing.  I’ll certainly report back when I know more.  But the more I research, the more likely it is that I’ll continue my health sharing participation.