June 15, 2011; Source: IndependentMail.com | When – and if – the federal health care reform bill goes into effect in 2014, a group of Americans, currently estimated at 100,000 and growing, won't be required to carry health insurance. Their medical bills won't go unpaid, though. Instead, costs for health needs will be covered through what are known as faith-based health care sharing ministries.

The Sacramento Bee reports participants in these programs, all of which are nonprofit, deposit monthly payments to help medical costs for other members. An example is Medi-Share, which is part of Christian Care Ministry in Florida. Rebecca Gertner of Sacramento, whose husband is a pastor at a small evangelical church and which doesn't offer employees health insurance, instead is covered by Medi Share. Over the past five years, Gernter, who pays Medi Share $200 a month, has had two pregnancies covered. "It has been a major blessing for us," she said.

Some state regulators cast a wary eye on health care sharing programs. "The concern is that people may not really understand that they are not insurance companies . . . and they don't have the same regulations or, if something goes wrong, the reserves," said Timothy Jost, professor of health law at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

According to the Sacramento Bee, although different health sharing programs have their own eligibility programs, "most say members must live by biblical standards." For instance, Medi Share members are required to sign statements that they are Christians. The newspaper adds that plan participants "must agree not to use drugs, abuse alcohol or have sex outside traditional Christian marriage. AIDS and HIV are covered if the member contracted the disease through blood transfusions. Abortion is not covered."—Bruce Trachtenberg