Catholic health share plan offers alternative to contraception mandate

By Michelle Bauman

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A new Catholic health care sharing ministry may soon offer an alternative to traditional insurance plans for those who have moral objections to the requirements of the federal contraception mandate.

Christopher Faddis, CEO of Immaculata Management Group, Inc., believes that health sharing may provide a “uniquely Catholic solution” to the problems posed by the mandate.

Immaculate Management Group will be overseeing a new health share plan, called Solidarity HealthShare, which is expected to be functioning by January 1, 2013.

In a July 18 interview with EWTN News, Faddis explained that health care sharing ministries are exempt from the Affordable Care Act, including the mandate issued under the authority of the act that will soon require insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

This controversial mandate has drawn significant criticism from those who object to its demands on religious and moral grounds. Opponents of the mandate argue that it infringes upon their religious freedom by forcing them to purchase, offer or facilitate products and procedures that violate their consciences.

But the mandate will not apply to health sharing ministries that have existed since Dec 31, 1999. Faddis is partnering with one of the three health sharing ministries that meet this requirement in order to qualify for the complete exemption.

Health sharing, which started about thirty years ago, is not the same as insurance. Membership is voluntary and does not involve a contract.

Rather, participants commit to a “statement of faith” and a monthly contribution, similar to a premium, based on their desired level of coverage. They then submit claims for qualifying medical needs.

Unlike an insurance company, there is no obligation to pay, and funding is based upon the amount of money available, but the system has been shown to work well and cover all costs adequately.

Participants will be invited to give additional contributions – in a spirit of Catholic charity – to cover of the expenses of those whose needs are not fully covered.

Individuals, organizations and companies can join in the health share ministry. Participants are encouraged to pray regularly for the medical and spiritual needs of other members.

Faddis said that in examining the current health sharing plans in existence, he found that they had a “good history” and observed that “there’s never been an issue with paying.”

Due to its structure, a health share plan “generally ends up costing both the employer and the employee less” than an insurance plan, he added, and employers can then set up funds to cover out-of-pocket expenses for their employees.

Dr. John C. Oertle, president of Immaculata Management Group, Inc., explained that Solidarity HealthShare will have a “statement of faith” that is broad enough to include members of other religions who wish to join.

However the statement will be “Catholic in origin and values,” he added. The plan will align with Church teaching and will not fund objectionable products or procedures.

Oertle believes that the health sharing plan will help “facilitate” Catholic principles, such as solidarity, stewardship and charity.

“It’s a way for Catholic values to be instilled into our everyday living,” he said.

Faddis said that while the Catholic health sharing plan was “designed in response to the mandate,” they would continue with their intention of launching the plan even if the mandate were to be overturned.

“It’s a more cost-effective measure for families,” he explained, adding that it is in line with Catholic principles.

In addition, he said, the health share model incorporates some of the attractive features of the Affordable Care Act – such as coverage of pre-existing conditions – without the compulsory and objectionable elements.

“Essentially, it addresses that problem for many people,” he said.

The health share plans that are currently in existence include about 40,000 – 50,000 people each. Faddis said he expects to reach a similar number with Solidarity HealthShare, although it could reach greater numbers if dioceses decide to participate.

The idea of a Catholic health share plan is already drawing positive feedback, noted Faddis, including well over 5,000 website visits and nearly 500 people signing up for “early access” to the plan.

“The conversations are really happening,” he said.

Those who are interested in learning more about the Catholic health share plan can do so by visiting www.SolidarityHealthShare.com.

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