We are a young family with three children. Our children are 7, 4, and 1 year old. My husband, Mark, recently finished school and is working as a pharmacist and I am a stay-at-home mom to our children.
Mark has been working as a pharmacist since 2012. He began his pharmacy career working for a retail store. We were paying $350/month for the lowest premium/highest deductible plan. Even after the $5500 individual and/or $11,500 family deductible was met, we were still required to pay 20% of the cost of care. We had an emergency fund set aside in case we needed it though.
In March of 2016, Mark switched companies and when we went to sign up for healthcare coverage, we were shocked when the cost for the lowest premium/high deductible plan (similar to what we had with the retail store) was going to cost us $1200 a month! That is $850 more dollars a month toward healthcare costs!
At this point, we knew we couldn’t afford to have health insurance through Mark’s company, so we searched around and did a lot of research on our options. A similar plan through Obamacare would cost us $700/month, which we still felt was too much. We needed something so we would have the care we needed without breaking the bank; and we didn’t want to be charged for NOT having health insurance.
Health Insurance Alternatives
We found a company called Christian Healthcare Ministries that is a cost-sharing ministry. It is basically “catastrophic insurance”. It is not considered insurance through an insurance company, but it qualifies for an exemption to the traditional Obamacare requirements so one does not get charged for not having insurance. We decided to go this route because it would cost our family of 5 $135/month (depending on the plan chosen, costs could be higher). Within our particular plan, there is a $5000 deductible per incident. We have an emergency fund set aside in case something arises. They cover maternity also, but you do have to be enrolled in the right plan. I have heard there are a few other insurance companies that offer a similar program, but I am not sure of the costs associated. You can find out more here.
Christian Healthcare Ministries has worked out great for us, however, we were still having to pay out-of-pocket for doctor office visits, well-child checks, prescriptions, immunizations, etc. Most Doctor’s offices will give a discount to cash paying patients. What our family decided to do was put the money we were saving ($350/month from previous insurance to $135/month through Christian Healthcare Ministries- which comes out $215/month) into a savings account and use that money to pay for these out-of-pocket expenses. That $215/month adds up quickly so it was a good system.
Ark Family Health
Here is where Ark Family Health comes in! We learned about Ark Family Health through friends. The idea of paying a monthly fee and having the ability to go into the doctor’s office as many times as we needed was so intriguing (along with the ability to text/call our Doctor directly, and house calls if there is something urgent after hours). My son has a severe dairy allergy and reactive airways so he is in the doctor’s office more than anyone else. I have yearly appointments for asthma and physicals so I also go in at least three times a year. We decided to sign up with Ark Family Health and see how it would work out. This decision has been one of the best decisions for our healthcare! I have never felt more cared for at a doctor’s office. When we walked in for my son’s first appointment (which I was able to schedule for the next day and not three- four weeks out), Dr. Johnson came right out to meet us. We did not have to wait in the waiting room or fill out insurance forms or pay a co-pay. We were not rushed in and out. Dr. Johnson and Dr. Farnsworth schedule their patients in a manner that they can take the time they need to really get to know the patients and their health history and concerns. Dr. Johnson had a nebulizer and albuterol on hand that I was able to take home and use to help my son with his breathing.
The cost for our whole family to be covered by Ark Family Health is $130/month (children are $10/month and adults $50/month). If we add $130/month from Ark Family Health and $135/month from Christian Healthcare Ministries, that puts the total health care cost for our entire family at $265/month. This amount is still less than what we were paying at Mark’s former company for insurance alone, not to mention if there is a month we need to see the doctor many times, the cost is the same. The difference we save every month we tuck into a savings account for costs such as prescriptions, dental, vision, blood testing, labs, etc.
Other Ways to Save
In the 11 months since going this direction with healthcare costs, I have found other cost-savings. Locally, Maricopa County does free immunizations if you don’t have insurance (more resources here). I have called around and found a local pediatric dentist who does $39 exams. I have taken my child to the dental clinic on the university campus for dental work and saved a lot of money (they also have an eye clinic). I have shopped around pharmacies and found the cheapest prices I could. Additionally, Ark Family Health has certain medications on hand in their office that are a very, very good price!
I do not have to worry about which doctors are in-network, co-pays, or the rising cost of insurance. Ark Family Health combined with a “catastrophic insurance” has been freeing for our family. I cannot say enough good things about my experiences.