Not all churches can afford to offer health insurance to their pastors. And if you do have insurance through your church, there are likely still some out-of-pocket costs associated with your health care.
Here are a few money-saving strategies to help pastors afford high, out-of-pocket medical costs.
- Sign up for a Christian health care sharing ministry. Christian health care sharing ministries can be an affordable option for pastors who have no health insurance. Members pay into the ministry each month, and then this money goes toward paying other members' medical costs.
By signing up for a health care sharing ministry, you can support fellow Christians and also receive help in your time of need. Just keep in mind that this is not the same as insurance. You will be considered a self-pay patient at the doctor.
- Consider a government or independent insurance plan. If your church is unable to offer a health insurance plan, try exploring other options like a government plan. If your income is under a certain amount, you may qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid eligibility varies by state, so you will need to check your state's guidelines.
Anyone 65 or older is eligible for Medicare. There are also a variety of plans available from independent insurance companies. Purchasing your own insurance involves comparing premiums, deductibles and coverage. Before shopping around, think about your unique health care needs and what you can afford in terms of monthly premium payments.
- Look for prescription discounts and assistance programs. Prescription drug costs can be a significant financial burden for those who are uninsured. Even if you have health insurance, it may not offer adequate coverage for the medications you need to take. Fortunately, there are many sources for prescription discounts and savings, such as prescription discount cards, manufacturer coupons and prescription assistance programs. Here is a brief list of resources to check out:
—MedicineAssistanceTool.org is a searchable database that lists prescription assistance programs. It was created by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) as a free resource to help patients and healthcare providers find assistance programs offered by the pharmaceutical industry.
—ScriptSave WellRx is a prescription savings program accepted nationwide. Their pharmacy discount card is free and provides access to lower prices on a wide range of medications. Patients receive discounts on the cash price of their prescriptions by showing their Rx savings card at participating pharmacies.
—NeedyMeds is a nonprofit dedicated to helping patients access their medications. Their website is a free resource that covers a variety of topics, including prescription assistance programs, disease-specific assistance programs, sliding scale or low-cost clinics and government programs.
—Manufacturer websites are a great place to look for co-pay coupons and assistance programs. Drug manufacturers will often have programs for patients who meet certain criteria. Search the name of your drug online to find the manufacturer website. You may need your doctor to write a letter stating your diagnosis and why you need this medication.
—Third-party Rx coupons lower the cash price of a medication. They are offered by a third-party company called a Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) rather than a drug manufacturer. Prescription coupons can be a great way to save on drugs that aren't covered by insurance.
- Ask for a payment plan. Some health care providers are willing to work with you if you tell them you're uninsured or having financial difficulties. They may be able to set up a payment plan with little or no interest so you can repay your medical bill in manageable monthly installments.
- Compare costs between providers. Most people don't think to comparison shop for medical procedures, but doing so can help you find the best price. When your doctor recommends a test or other procedure, do some research on local providers. Call several different clinics, labs or hospitals and ask what the cost will be for a self-pay patient.
- Go to a community health center or sliding scale clinic. Community health clinics are funded by the government and provide low-cost or free health care. The only caveat is that they often have eligibility requirements for patients. If you don't meet their requirements, they may not treat you.
Sliding scale clinics are another option. They offer health care services on a sliding payment scale that's adjusted for your income, so you pay what you can afford.
- Negotiate a discount with your doctor. Be honest with your doctor and let him or her know you're having trouble affording health care costs on your own. He or she might give you a discount for paying out-of-pocket. Your doctor may also be mindful of your situation in the future and avoid ordering unnecessary tests.
- Try telemedicine. Telemedicine is a growing area of the health care industry. It involves videoconferencing with a doctor. These sessions are usually cheaper than the average in-person doctor's visit, and they can be conducted from the convenience of your home or office—perfect for busy pastors!
Keep in mind that a telemedicine visit is best for routine issues. If you have a more serious health concern, you should see your doctor in person.
- Don't neglect preventive care. Preventive health measures are far less expensive than treating a serious condition. Make it a point to see your doctor at least once a year for routine physicals, get recommended screening tests and try to lead a healthy lifestyle.
While health care is a big expense, it's also one of the most important. You can't effectively serve your congregation if you're sick or injured. These cost-cutting strategies can help lower your medical expenses.
Cameron Bower is a freelance writer specializing in health care and finance. He enjoys using his passion for writing to educate readers about topics such as affordable health care, budgeting and health/wellness trends.
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