Advantages of Health Insurance Alternative Plans
For American adults, health care remains a top concern as individuals scramble to find decent, affordable coverage. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) led to numerous complaints about astronomical premiums and the breakup of longstanding doctor/patient relationships. Consequently, millions of people have sought alternatives to government-run health care plans.
What Are the Alternative Health Care Options?
Non-traditional health care plans differ in terms of coverage and requirements. While the fees or premiums are generally low, some require high deductibles. The policy that would best suit your needs could all depend on your expected frequency of hospital visits and the general pattern of your medical history.
If your plan has low premiums with high deductibles, you could end up paying thousands up front before you can commence with surgery. Alternately, you might not meet the lifestyle requirement for a given plan if you do not adhere to a specific faith-based creed. In any case, the following five health care options are popular alternatives to the ACA.
1. Medical Cost-Sharing Programs
One of the most popular alternative health care options is the medical cost-sharing program, in which funds are pooled from the collective input of member fees. In a cost-sharing program, you pay a reasonable monthly fee, much like you would with a primary care membership. When the need arises for medical care, the pool of funds generated among you and your fellow program members covers the cost.
Unlike primary care membership, a medical cost-sharing program will cover the cost of surgeries, physical therapy, emergency care and extended hospitalization. As such, a cost-sharing program is more for essential care in times of emergency and crisis, as opposed to routine doctor visits.
Faith-based health care ministries offer most medical cost-sharing programs. To become a member, you generally need to adhere to a set of likeminded beliefs. A faith-based ministry may or may not ask you to verify your churchgoing habits, but they do require you to follow a law-abiding, risk-free way of life.
To that end, Christian cost-sharing programs will not cover injuries or medical emergencies that result from illicit drug use, drunk driving, daredevil sporting mishaps or fistfights. Most critically, faith-based ministries will not cover abortion or pay for the cost of morning-after pills.
2. Primary Care Membership
Another low-cost alternative to standard health insurance is the primary care membership deal, where you pay a monthly fee for basic medical care. Under this type of plan, you receive coverage for all your basic, routine visits to the hospital. Whenever you need to undergo a physical, an eye exam, a vaccination or a blood test, this plan covers the cost of your visit.
In a sense, the primary care membership option is similar to a gym membership, whereby you pay a flat rate every four weeks in exchange for access to the facilities. You can enroll yourself, as well as others in your household, into a primary care membership package and pay less than you would on health insurance premiums.
All things considered, a primary care membership will not cover the cost of lengthy hospital stays and major surgeries. In the event of an accident or health crisis, you would need to supplement your primary care plan with a policy that will cover catastrophic needs that may or may not arise. In such cases, a high-deductible, low-premium policy would have you covered.
3. Health Savings Account
With a health savings account, or HSA, you can save on taxes in exchange for basic health care. Under this type of plan, you allocate a set amount of tax-deductible income from each paycheck into your HSA. As with a primary care membership, an HSA will cover basic medical costs such as annual/biannual medical checkups and eye exams.
People typically sign up for HSAs through their employees, though you can also set up an HSA independently. However, there is an IRS-imposed annual limit to the amount you can deduct from your taxes for an HSA. In 2016, that limit was $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for families.
To be covered for major surgeries and extended hospitalization, you would need to supplement your HSA with a low-premium, high-deductible form of emergency coverage. HSAs are a good option for low-risk policyholders with little or no medical history.
4. Medical Services Discount Card
One non-traditional health care option that has been the subject of controversy is the medical services discount card. As the name implies, the card provides discounts on medical services. Discount cards are a suitable option for low-risk, healthy individuals with no medical history who are happy to pay the balance of hospital visits minus a discount percentage.
Medical discount cards vary in the range of care they cover. Some cards provide discounts on prescription medications and physical exams, while others are good for eye and tooth exams. Certain cards will cover a broader range of categories. Discount cards are also available that cover the full range of dental care, which most other health care options typically minimize or exclude.
Savings can vary with a medical discount card, but the amount is generally significant. Some cards will reduce the cost of a medical visit by as much as 80 percent. You can purchase discount cards with a one-time payment or activate them with a monthly fee. Some discount cards are even available free of charge, though the coverage and savings will generally be limited. Depending on the card, your options might get confined to a specific network of doctors and/or care facilities.
Since the passage of the ACA, users of medical discount cards have been subject to the individual mandate penalty. However, this will no longer be the case after 2018, due to provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that eliminate the individual mandate.
5. High-Deductible Policy
Another way to save on health care is to simply opt for a low-premium, high-deductible plan. This way, your monthly premiums are lower than average, but you pay a high premium in the event of an emergency. High-deductible policies are an ideal option for young people with no pre-existing health conditions who generally don’t expect to encounter much need for health care in the foreseeable future.
If you do not have a medical history and live a relatively risk-free way of life, a high-deductible policy might be a suitable way to save money in the long run. However, if you needed emergency care or required extended hospitalization, you would have to pay a high premium and would, therefore, need the funds to cover that cost. As such, a high-deductible policy can also be a dicey proposition.
What Are the Advantages of Alternative Health Care Options?
People enroll in medical cost-sharing programs and other forms of alternative health care to avoid the high premiums and/or deductibles associated with traditional policies. Nonetheless, there are numerous benefits to non-traditional health care plans, including the following:
1. Control Over Your Health Care
One of the most significant advantages of alternative health care options is the freedom they allow regarding coverage. Whether you wish to pay a monthly fee or opt for low premiums with high deductibles, you can opt for the extent of coverage that gives you the best peace of mind.
For some individuals, health care is a minor concern. For many others, health care is a constant worry. The extent of your concern could depend on your age, lifestyle and medical history.
If you are young and in good health, you might wish for a low-cost option that will cover some of your expenses if and when the need arises at some point within the next five or 10 years. If you are older and have already conquered a health challenge or two, you might feel greater security with a more comprehensive form of health care. Either way, alternative plans allow you to make choices that best suit your income and health care needs.
2. Encouragement of a Healthy Lifestyle
With an alternative health care plan, you generally need to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, a primary care membership will cover your basic hospital visits, but won’t cover major emergencies that require extended hospitalization. While the latter circumstances are often beyond a patient’s control, emergencies can also be the consequence of foolish behavior and unhealthy habits. As such, a low-cost alternative form of medical care can provide an incentive for a safer, healthier way of life.
Some types of alternative care will even require you to live safely and abide by certain principles. To qualify for faith-based health care, you must refrain from activities the Christian ministries that oversee memberships deem immoral. Faith-based care will not, in fact, cover the cost of medical expenses that stem from injuries sustained in unlawful or reckless acts. To gain membership in such a plan, you generally must take an oath to live a clean, healthy and law-abiding life.
3. Low Membership Fees
With non-traditional health care, you save money that would otherwise go toward the high premiums of a more conventional plan. This way, you can go about living life with the peace of mind that your basic medical needs will be covered, but without the financial drain of high premiums. Moreover, an alternative plan can free you from paying untold sums over months and years for medical expenses that may not ever arise.
For example, a medical cost-sharing program is designed to provide essential coverage for a low-cost membership fee. The plan offers the lower rates under the good faith that major hospital expenses will only occur under circumstances beyond your control as a member. Since these standards apply to all members, you do not have to worry whether the pool of funds go to covering the cost of procedures you might find ethically questionable as a paying member.
4. Personalized Care and Choice of Doctor
With alternative health care options, you can generally find a more personalized and supportive form of care than you would under a government-run program. Once you enroll with a faith-based health care plan, you will receive support from a like-minded community of members who collectively pay into the pool of funds. When a need arises with one of the members, funds go directly to that individual’s medical facility to cover his or her treatment.
Most alternative plans will also allow you to continue seeing the doctor of your choice. As a member of a faith-based ministry, for example, you can maintain your pre-established doctor/patient relationship. That stands in contrast to the ACA, which has drawn numerous complaints from individuals who couldn’t keep their doctors under the policy.
5. Enroll Anytime
One of the more freeing aspects of alternative health care is that you can enroll or opt out anytime. If you are in your 20s and don’t imagine yourself having any medical issues in the foreseeable future, you can switch from a high-premium plan to a discount card or other alternative option. If you are a working adult who takes exception with aspects of traditional health insurance on ethical grounds, you could switch from that policy to a faith-based plan and get essential coverage at a lower cost, all with a greater clarity of mind.
For years, one of the most binding aspects of the ACA was the individual mandate, whereby non-enrollees would pay an annual tax penalty if they chose not to get insurance or to sign up with a non-ACA plan. Many faith-based ministries have been exempt from this mandate, and starting in 2019, the penalty will no longer apply across the alternative health care spectrum. As such, non-traditional health care is becoming a more attractive option for a greater number of people.
6. Great Coverage
Perhaps the best aspect of alternative health care is the extensive coverage available under such plans. More to the point, alternative options give you the power to select the type of benefits that best suit you as an individual. If you seek a medical plan that will cover the cost of routine visits to the doctor, plans are available that provide such coverage for a low monthly cost. If you seek a more comprehensive policy that will cover emergency care and extended hospitalization, you can find that sort of coverage in a faith-based plan.
For millions of Americans, the ACA ushered in an era of reduced options in health care. Regardless of lifestyle, an individual on an ACA insurance plan was never quite sure whether his or her money might ultimately support procedures of an ethically questionable nature. When you enroll in a medical cost-sharing program with a Christian ministry, you can rest assured the pool of funds will only go toward treating agreeable treatments and procedures.
Faith-Based Health Care From Aliera
As increasing numbers of people look to alternative health care options, Aliera has swiftly emerged as a popular medical cost-sharing program. Aliera members get access to their doctors of choice without a co-pay, either by phone or telemedicine, 24/7. Most of all, Aliera provides a range of essential coverage for a low monthly fee. When medical needs arise, hospitals get paid directly without the confusing paperwork of similar plans.
With Aliera, members enjoy peace of mind knowing their pool of funds is going to pay for ethical medical care. Click this link to get a free Aliera health care quote.