Solidarity Health Share, a Catholic Alternative

As my nieces like to remind me: “Sharing is caring!”

Obamacare and the HHS mandate are upon us. Companies will begin implementing them in their health insurance plan, and no doubt that includes the company I work for. So I’ve been looking for an alternative.

Unfortunately, as of just a few months ago, there were no Catholic alternatives. So I was talking with Protestant medical sharing programs like MediShare. But the great news is that a Catholic health share organization is starting: Solidarity Health Share.

They are in the initial phases and need to know that enough Catholics will sign up and join the sharing program, so please head over there and put in your email address to show your interest and so you can be informed of their progress.

From my research, these sharing programs are not insurance per se. But they operate in a similar way, where you pay a monthly amount (a premium but it’s not called that), have a deductible (but it’s not called that) and a certain out-of-pocket maximum per family per year. The Protestant ones require you to abide by certain rules: no tobacco, moderate alcohol, no drugs, etc. The Catholic one will probably be less restrictive regarding tobacco I would guess, but I do hope that some rules are put in place because that helps ensure program members are living health lifestyles.

The good thing is, these medical sharing programs are able to bargain like an insurance company and get provider discounts for medical costs. As our $114,000 hospital bill showed us, that’s essential in this insane health care system. (Our bill was reduced by $106,000 or so by an insurance provider “discount.”)

Solidarity Health Share looks really promising. I hope that it will launch, and if it does we will be joining it immediately. We may even donate ahead of time to help them get it off the ground. Pray about it and consider joining as well!

44 thoughts on “Solidarity Health Share, a Catholic Alternative”

  1. I looked into MediShare a while back because my health insurance already does all the naughty stuff. Actually a man at my work had a sex change and it got me thinking about all the crud my insurance pays for. I mean, even if it pays for the Pill, which is abortofacient, that is bad enough. But of course it pays for sterilizations and the IUD as well, along with a host of other stuff. Probably abortions even, I don’t know.

    MediShare was about the same cost for me as what I pay now, and I felt a bit uncomfortable about signing their statement of faith and not being able to smoke a pipe even. One thing I did like at the time was they would not “share” (pay) the costs of an out-of-wedlock birth. But there again, this also seems to perhaps not be the most Christian way to go. I just had a weird feeling about it.
    I think I will stay on my current plan until my wife’s pregnancy is completed just in case the costs get way out of control, but yeah, I want to sign on to this plan when it comes out.

    Another plus to having a Catholic plan is it could potentially be supported by the Church in a more official way as well. Perhaps one of the second collections in the US could go to help it. Because if they are going to accept pre-existing conditions, as they say they will, it is unclear to me how they can balance the books without help. But if this program were only for practicing Catholics (with signed proof from a parish to that effect) then Catholics would give money to it in droves I think, because they would know the money is not being misused for evil purposes like in the current insurance plans. We will see I guess.

    1. It is my understanding that the Catholic plan would be more in line with Catholic thought than the previous Protestant plans. Catholics are not particularly encouraged to refrain from moderate alcohol or tobacco use, and the charitable Catholic approach would certainly not be to abandon a woman with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Hopefully this new Catholic plan will have those adjustments so many people can wholeheartedly embrace it!

      1. I think Medishare’s prohibition against tobacco use was probably a decision made due to cost as opposed to philosophy. As an occasional pipe and cigar smoker, I hate to admit that the healthcare costs of even recreational tobacco users are higher than those of non-users due to instances of mouth and throat cancer. It will be interesting to see what Solidarity decides on this issue.

    2. “One thing I did like at the time was they would not ‘share’ (pay) the costs of an out-of-wedlock birth. But there again, this also seems to perhaps not be the most Christian way to go. I just had a weird feeling about it.”


      1. I asked myself, how could any Christian organization that exists to share medical costs, legitimately exclude the costs associated with an out-of-wedlock birth?

        The only answer I could think of is this one: the Catholic view is that it is in the best interest of a child to grow up in a home with a mother and a father married to each other, and in recent years, this view has been coming more and more sharply into relief while the secular culture moves in directions opposed to this view. It had long been believed that when there is an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the child’s best hope for a happy and successful life is to place him or her with an adoption agency, who, it is hoped, will find a loving home with a mother and a father. In many such cases, it is the agency who pays the expenses for the expectant single Mom. When putting into place a plan that prioritizes what is best for the baby, independent coverage of her own for the mother would be superfluous.

        1. Marion,
          Just to clarify, the plan they are speaking about above, is not Solidarity HealthShare. It is the three Christian HealthShare ministries out there that they are referring to who do not cover out of wedlock birth. I just don’t want anyone to be confused here.

          As for SHS, while our guidelines are not set and I cannot speak to those as of yet, I will say that we are doing everything to ensure that our policies respect the dignity of all life – even unplanned pregnancy.


  2. My husband and I are so excited about the potential of a Catholic health cost sharing plan!

    However, it’s really, really, really important to make sure you read all the fine print before signing up – we had looked into MediShare awhile ago to help cover a gap in maternity coverage for me after we got married. However, because we had conceived (although we didn’t know it) before we were on the plan, they wouldn’t cover any maternity costs. Thankfully, their representatives were very good at explaining this to us before we got too far into the process.

    I’m also curious to see how family history and pre-existing conditions may affect “premiums.”

  3. I’ve been following Solidarity Health Share with interest ever since I heard an interview with one of the founders on Relevant Radio. While I think it’s a really great idea, a couple aspects give me pause. First, I worry that the program will not have sufficient bargaining power to negotiate lower rates with providers. As your experience indicates, large insurance companies can use their leverage to dramatically lower costs of care (sometimes by up to 90%). If Solidarity is unable to do the same, I am concerned that the venture will not be financially viable.

    Second, I’d have to see the list of participating doctors before signing up. I’m certain that Solidarity will have to ration services to a list of approved participating clinicians and I’m also certain that, simply due to Solidarity’s small size and limited bargaining power, this will be much shorter list than a traditional insurance company would have. I’d hate to have to drive halfway across the state/see an inferior provider in order to participate in the healthshare.

    Last, the fact that Solidarity is not an “insurance company” makes me a bit uneasy. Granted, this is the reason they are able to get around the HHS mandate, but insurance regulations also require that insurance companies set aside money for and provide the services that are agreed to. So if I get sick, and the medical care I receive are covered services, I know my insurance will uphold its end of the bargain. With healthshares, there are no such guarantees. Indeed, since plans like Medishare (and presumably Solidarity) have no required insurance reserves (unlike traditional insurers), there’s always the chance that a few catastrophic claims occurring in a single period could drain the resources dry. Since they are completely unregulated entities, members have to simply trust that healthshares are being run with financial prudence.

    Again, from a faith based perspective, avoiding complicity with the unjust HHS mandate is definitely why I’m attracted to Solidarity. However, from a medical care perspective, the program seems to substantially increase the level of risk that my family would have to take on with regard to our healthcare compared with my current employer-provided insurance. So, to make a long story short, I’m still really undecided about Solidarity.

    1. We’ve been using Samaritan Ministries for about a year now and are very happy with this program. I found them to be preferable to Medi-Share when I did a lot of research on it last year.

      Here’s some info we put together for family and friends who were interested/ curious about our choice. I think it answers most of your questions. If not, check out their webpage because their handbook has all of the answers.

      Samaritan Ministries ( Their webpage has their guidelines/ handbook + a great blog regarding some misconceptions.

      Here’s the gist (and reasons we’re making the change):
      Each month, you send your monthly share/ payment to another individual to help cover their medical expenses- with the assumption that when the time comes that you have a medical need, others will do the same for you. This program is not insurance and doesn’t guarantee payments, since all sharing is voluntary. Though, unlike insurance, they’re not looking for loopholes to not provide coverage… There are a number of things they don’t cover- pre-existing conditions (unless there are no symptoms for 12 months), mental health needs, alternative medicine (i.e. chiropractors), et cetera.

      For health expenses, members pay for anything less than $300, but anything over that, they submit their bills to SM for publishing to the group to help fund the expense. The expense is published in 30- 60 days, with checks arriving shortly thereafter. When an expense is incurred with a health facility, members are considered “self pay” and that in itself may allow for reduced rates- otherwise, SM uses third party negotiators to help reduce medical bills.

      Individual expenses are covered up to $250,000 per incident, though members may join “Save to Share” for $400/ year which allows for unlimited costs per incident. There is no limit to the number of incidents one may have. For example, if you would develop cancer while involved with SM, you would simply submit your bills each month.

      This program has been around for nearly 20 years and has ~18,000 participating households. The cost has gone up over time, but is voted on by a board. The current rates are still far less than most health insurances.

      Most importantly to us, this is a moral and pro-life group. They do not fund abortions or contraceptives. They note that the reversal of a vasectomy or tubal ligation will be considered for optional giving by members. They are supportive of maternity needs, whereas so many insurance groups no longer even fund maternity needs. (They’re even be encouraging of home births…)

      Honestly, the search was prompted due to finances. Health insurance can be so expensive. (Money details can be found at the bottom of this list.) I read a number of reviews from people who said they ended up using SM when their finances were tight, but now they wouldn’t use anything else.

      This is a very simple program. After researching it for a while, I went back to pondering traditional health insurance and it just gave me a headache, sifting through what’s covered and how and when…. With SM you are not restricted to any particular providers.

      SM is a very personal program- money and notes are sent between individuals and members are asked to pray for each other.

      This program does not encourage government funding for healthcare- i.e. there’s a reduced rate for elderly.

      Members are asked to agree to a statement of faith and Christian living (involving a signature from their pastor or someone that holds them accountable). There are no other restrictions on membership.

      While comparing healthcare sharing organizations, SM had, by far, the most positive reviews online.

      Healthcare sharing groups like this are exempt from the 2014 healthcare mandate.

      Money stuff. The monthly cost is $320/ month, regardless of family size (they have reduced rates for single parent homes, young adults, etc). The annual administrative fee = $175 ($15/ month) + $15 (for the Save to Share program). We are also setting aside $400/ year for the Save to Share program (medical expenses greater than $250,000). For the first three months of membership, your share per month is sent to the main administrative office, after that, each monthly check is sent to another individual- what a novelty to know exactly where your money is going…

      A few cons: doesn’t cover preventative care (though neither do many insurance companies that utilize deductibles…). Also, using this means that we will now be technically “uninsured,” though we don’t have any future plans to return to traditional health insurance, we recognize that if one of us would develop a health condition, we would most likely be considered “uninsurable,” though SM doesn’t kick you out or insist that you use Medicaid/ Medicare. You can not contribute to an HSA in conjunction with healthcare sharing organizations.

      Other similar programs are Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries (previously Christian Brotherhood). Their monthly costs vary. They both have some fraud in their history. Medi-Share has lots of reviews online and many are not favorable (mainly about the timeliness of payments and noting that if you have health issues, rates may increase or you may be strongly encouraged to use Medicaid/ Medicare). For both of these organizations, you send payments to the main administrative site. There are also a number of non-Christian healthcare co-ops that work in a similar fashion.

      Here’s the article from Time Magazine that I came across last summer that first piqued my interest about this:,9171,1992385,00.html
      – here’s another I’ve since found:
      – some blog posts by a family that uses Samaritan Ministries:“samaritan+ministries”

      1. Hi Jen,
        Thanks for sharing your experience with Samaritan. We have met several folks (and some personal friends) who use their program.

        May I ask where you found fraud in the history of these two ministries? Was it proven or accused?

        As for our program, it will include some of the ideals of all three ministries but be fairly unique. I appreciate your sharing what you like about Samaritan as it helps us as we move forward with setting guidelines/policies.

        -Chris Faddis, SHS

        1. Our family is also a part of Samaritan Ministries. We are incredibly happy to be a part of this ministry, and it has been an answer to our prayers.

          That being said, we would love to belong to a Catholic share program, and are looking forward to joining Solidarity as long as it offers a good program.

          The biggest drawback (for me) in regards to Samaritan Ministries is that it does not cover fertility care like Napro Technology. It would be fabulous, since Napro is so very Catholic and upholds the dignity of human life, that Solidarity Health Share would cover this.

          Chris, do you think this will happen?

  4. interesting! is there a moral issue at stake for catholics cooperating with insurance plans that cooperate with the hhs mandate?

    1. I think there is, though I’m not a moral theologian. It must have to do with how closely your actions are connected with the immoral actions. So if I’m paying monthly premiums to my company’s health insurance plan (we self-insure BTW), and other coworkers are using that money to get abortifacient drugs etc., that is a problem.

      1. Wow, I would be interested to discuss this with other folks at my workplace.

        Up to now I had thought the moral responsibility was on the employer in terms of what plan is provided. However, I had not thought of employee contributions.

        The fact is, my employer has been providing health care that pays for immoral services (birth control, sterilization, abortion) for the entire time I have worked for this employer (15 years), and I have been contributing the whole time.

        But I’m not sure that employee contributions should be considered immoral because the value the employee is getting from the health care is almost always greater than the amount contributed by the employee. (I assume the employer is paying for the majority of the health care, which isn’t the case in all situations). So you can’t really say that by choosing health care, the employee is providing MORE funds for immoral acts. In fact, I would assume the opposite is true, that by participating, you’re using more of the employer’s money for legitimate health care and making less money available for immoral acts.

        Another factor in my case is that my employer is self-insured.

        1. Jonathan,

          That’s not totally true because the money your employer is paying for your health insurance is money they would just give you as salary otherwise. On their books I’m pretty sure they lump it all together as the cost of an employee.

          Though my tax dollars go to tons of stuff I find morally abhorrent and I don’t see how this is any different. Paul also paid taxes to support sacrifices at pagan idols and unjust wars.

          1. Hi Phil,

            If you’re talking about employee contributions, then I agree – if I don’t pay those, then I get more salary. But I’m talking about the part of my health care which my employer pays, beyond the contribution which comes out of my salary. By choosing to participate in the plan, my employer is spending additional money that would otherwise not be going to me. And if I didn’t choose to participate, then the company would spend that money on something else, and possibly use it to fund something immoral.

            It seems to me that the real moral questions is whether I somehow help my employer to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. The contribution I make which increases my employer’s revenue (revenue which pays for the health plan) is the work I do for the company. It’s this work which helps my employer make products, which are sold to increase the pool of money of which some is spent on abortions. So it’s not my decision to purchase the health plan that is the problem, it is my decision to work at the company in the first place.

            It seems to me that what I should consider here is not my employee contributions to health care, but my employment with my employer!

  5. We self insure as well and I have been wondering about the moral implications of that. I am at least not providing insurance to people like an employer, but my premium dollars do go to support immoral things (as do my tax dollars, ugh!). But is it morally responsible to go without insurance (and pay penalties, once that goes into effect, I guess) and leave my family open to all sorts of potential issues because of that? I haven’t read much about an individual’s situation with the HHS mandate. And how different is paying a health care premium than paying my taxes – both are mandated and both fund immoral activities to some degree…

    Solidarity looks like a great option, I am glad to know about it. I will be watching it closely.

    1. This, in my opinion, is the key issue. It would seem that we have an obligation as Catholics to avoid allowing our healthcare contributions to be used for immoral means but we also have a responsibility to provide for our families’ need for healthcare. Which obligation trumps?

  6. If these programs are not considered health insurance, and people using them are technically considered uninsured, does that mean that when the health-care mandate goes into effect, anyone using one of them in lieu of health insurance would be subject to the “tax” for non-compliance?

    1. though anyone using them is technically “uninsured” (e.g. in the eyes of health providers they are “self pay”)

  7. I think health exchange programs are the way to go for those who have objections to having part of their premiums paying for others’ procedures & what not that are morally objectionable. I looked into Medishare & as a practicing Catholic generally did not have a problem with their statement of faith. It was generic enough to agree. I like their idea about stewardship.

    That said I found out that any healthcare sharing ministry started after the year 1999 would not be exempt from Obamacare. See Chap 48, Sec 5000A, “Requirement to Maintain Essential Minimum Coverage.”

    In other words joining Solidarity Healthcare would be a waste of time for those who do not want their premiums to be used for unethical procedures & drug use .

    Please read the referenced section of the actual bill & hopefully someone will post to tell me that I read it incorrectly.

      1. Thanks for the information. Please keep us posted when they pair up wth a pre-1999 partner (I checked their website, nothing yet.) & receive in writing from HHS that Solidarity can be exempted from Obamacare(Sorry, I just don’t trust the federal government anymore.).

    1. Hi Jeannine,

      As is explained in this article, we are in fact working on a partnership with an existing health care sharing ministry.

      Although many people have expressed interest in joining regardless of tax exemption, we are working diligently to be able to offer that exemption. There are also a few lawsuits against that specific 1999 rule, so we shall see if it even stands.

      -Chris Faddis

      1. Thank you. For those who are interested can you post updates on your website & here about these lawsuits & other relevant information about your healthshare’s Obamacare exemption?

        1. Actually we cannot. 1. We are not clear on specifics on those lawsuits (we are not involved in those as of yet). 2. Until we have negotiated our partnership agreement, we cannot speak to those issues specifically. This is a very complicated matter and in fairness to our potential partners, we are doing our best to not “muddy” the waters for them.

          But stay tuned, we hope to have some things solidified very soon.

  8. I want to weigh in on a couple of recurring questions/themes in the discussion above. To start, I will inform you that I am a Catholic participating in the ChristianCare Medi-Share community and have been for 4 years. And I am really excited to hear about a Catholic sharing community coming to fruition. I have wondered why there wasn’t one up to this point.

    1) The question of the ‘no insurance’ policy. Being a part of MediShare prior to ObamaCare, MediShare did a great job of keeping us informed of the situation as everything happened with teh Affordable Care Act. That being said, sharing ministries are listed in the legislation specifically as being immune to the penalty. If Solidarity, as they seem to be in the process of, does partner with one of these ministries, the question of paying the ‘no insurance’ penalty will be avoidable. That seems fairly clear and certain to me based on my understanding of the law as it relates to sharing ministries.

    2) The question of a statement of faith is important, and many have voiced concerns over the Protestant statements that one must abide by. That being said, I did not find the statement to be incompatible with my Catholic faith. The only part of the statement that is concerning to some is the requirement that a member believe they are saved by faith. Certainly, as a Catholic I believe this to be only part of the answer, but after conversations with the folks at MediShare, it was quite obvious that my Catholic understanding of role of grace, faith and works was not at odds with their statement which seemed to be written particularly generically so as to encompass a variety of Christian denominations.

    On the flipside, I doubt that Solidarity would want to restrict Christians from other denominations from taking part in the ministry by creating a statement of faith that Protestants could not accept. I could be wrong, but the name of Solidarity Health seems to point to the need for christians to come together to fight this outrageous legislation that violates religious freedom for ALL of us.

    3) As to what the organization does or does not cover, I think everyone needs to be prepared for Solidarity to adopt most (if not all) of the coverage policies of the other three ministries. What folks need to understand, and I don’t think it is easy for many to do, is that these ministries ARE NOT INSURANCE. They are not insurance. They are not insurance. So, pre-existing conditions are a big concern. But there may be health needs people require that are beyond the scope of what the sharing community can handle. This is not un-christian. This is not a violation of someone’s dignity. The community simply cannot share these expenses. It’s not that they won’t, it’s that they cannot.

    Again, since the ministry is not insurance, it does not have to force its members to cover the costs of other people’s sin. In fact, the members come together with a mutual understanding and faith that the money they spend each month is going to a legitimate health need. The key here is legitimate and how this is defined is guided by the statement of faith. The example of the protestant ministries not sharing in expenses for babies born out of wedlock is a perfect example. The rule has to be ‘no’ because the ministry has promised its members it will not require them to pay for others’ sin. However, as is the case with MediShare (and I imagine all the sharing ministries), exceptions can be made. But these exceptions come only after consent from all the members. Since this is not insurance, I don’t see how it could be otherwise. The line has to be drawn somewhere to protect the members of the sharing community.

    There are pregnancy centers and other ministries established to handle, in particular, the case of the out of wedlock child.

    Keep in mind, moving forward, that there will have to be much sacrificing on the part of the Christian community in overcoming the health insurance issue in this country.
    My big fear for Solidarity moving forward, is that the Catholic community will not be able to shed its pre-conceived notions of insurance.

    I will be praying for Solidarity and Catholics around the country, that this be something that we can help get off the ground.

    1. Jon,
      My impression with these healthcare ministries is that families make assigned monthly contributions to the administrator who then gives it to those needing a bill paid for an accepted medical procedure. If the bill is for a catastrophic illness or accident (not pre-existing) there would be a call to members to make an extra contribution if they so choose. The predetermined pool of money would only be able to cover ordinary medical bills not including catastrophic ones. Is this a correct assumption? And if the extra contributions do not cover for the extra huge medical bills, in the past & if you have knowledge, what has the unfortunate member done to pay those bills?

      1. It depends on which ministry you use. Samaritan sends members a list of folks you have to send checks to that total your monthly share amount. Medishare just takes that work out of it, but still lets you know who the money is going to. Pros and Cons to both systems, but I chose the more convenient one that allows me to send 1 check each month. However, I have good friends with Samaritan and they enjoy sending out checks to folks and can leave notes, etc. So, its a trade off.

        And yes, there are ‘extra blessings’ that every member is asked to prayerfully considering contributing to, outside of their monthly share. In my experience with MediShare, this ask comes with information about the family in need so you know who it is going to and what it is for, and it is also a tax-deductible donation. So basically, each month, my bill has a section with ‘extra blessings’ and they ask if I am interested in helping family X. Praise God, my family has not needed extra blessings, but I have heard many testimonials over the years through MediShare’s online member portal and newsletters of folks who have received these extra blessings. It seems to work well.

        1. I’ve been with Samaritan Ministries for a year now, and have only ever had to send one check per month. (just an FYI)

        2. It seems to me that it is the extra donations from members that make it work. Otherwise, I can’t see how these healthcare ministries are viable given that most families go through some catastrophic medical experience at least once.

          Protestants, esp Evangelicals are very good at practicing subsidiarity; they are very, very generous & caring persons. I married one & he taught me how to be very charitable with time & money. So, I can see how these Protestant healthcare minsteries can survive & thrive.

          As a cradle Catholic I can attest that it is like “pulling teeth” to get a typical Catholic (maybe only a cradle Catholic) to donate above & beyond the minimum requirement, if even that much.

          On that note, I wish Solidarity a good luck. (If God wants this endeavor to succeed, it will.)

          1. Jeannine,

            To help solve this, Solidarity could potentially require Catholics who want to join to agree to an oath of fidelity to the Church, perhaps something like what new Catholics say when they become Catholic: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

  9. I understand that you are still in the planning stages, but I and many of my friends are eager to make the leap from our current insurance plans. Do you have any time frame in mind for launching this? Six months? A year? I feel like I need to make a move soon and I don’t want to sign up with a Protestant group like Samaritan only to see this one open up right after.

    Also, I am in healthcare and would be interested in any opportunities to help with this.

    1. Stephen,

      I feel the same way. We are considering joining Samaritan because there is no estimate for when Solidarity will be up and running. I am not affiliated with Solidarity, so I know nothing more than you do. Just a guy who wants to see it succeed.

  10. As of today, December 10, 2012, I cannot sign in to get progress updates and to show interest in joining Solidarity Health Share; the website is under construction, and there is no place to leave an email address. Maybe by signing up here that would spark others working on the Solidarity website to add a signup at the search bar. We are a healthy family with no preexisting conditions and no prescription needs, yet our monthly insurance payment doubled to over $800. This raise in rates is criminal. I feel like sending the President my bill and asking him directly exactly who is saving money with his ghastly “patient protection” law. I know, of course, I would hear lies to cover the lies of saving money in the long run. My family was born and raised here, we work and pay too many taxes, and we will go broke with his idea of “sharing the wealth”. We are not wealthy, but we are pretty well-educated and have more common sense like many in our country. If he can figure out ways to outfox the capitalist system we are happy with, then we will have to outsmart the communist in our White House. This health care exchange sounds like a successful way to do it.

    1. Not knowing what part of the country you live in, but your current premium was the high-deductible rate w/no maternity coverage for a family of 6 healthy people (4 kids, 2 adults), 3 yrs ago in CT. Looks to me you got yourself a good deal.

      Sue, unfortunately redistribution of the wealth is a fact of life & will not go away anytime soon. That said, get rid of your debt & ask for discounts if you pay with cash. And remember, God has a wonderful memory; He will not forget those who purposely decrease our reasonable quality of life in the name of their socialist ideas.

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