Frustrated with health insurance costs, some turn to religious plans: ‘For us it’s been a godsend’

Sarah Barazza doesn’t have health insurance, but money was the last thing on her mind as she and her 15-month-old son raced to the hospital in an ambulance last year. The toddler’s airway had become swollen from croup, and he struggled to breathe.

“Wow, I’m so grateful I don’t have to worry about finances,” the Plainfield woman said. “I’m just focused on taking care of my child.”

Her son Moises recovered. The family’s out-of-pocket cost for the episode? Nothing.

The Barazza family belongs to a health care sharing ministry, a religious nonprofit in which members pay for each other’s health care needs. Compared with traditional health insurance premiums, ministries’ monthly member costs are often much lower. But unlike traditional insurance, members must often commit to religious principles. The ministries generally won’t pay for services that don’t align with those principles, such as abortion and substance abuse treatment, and they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions and prescriptions.