TRS health plan costs are making it harder and harder for single income teaching families in Texas to make ends meet—a problem that is driving some talented educators to leave the profession. For Katy and Todd, their family was forced to find a more affordable option once Katy decided to stay home with their three young children and their TRS premiums they recieved through Todd's teaching job doubled. After switching from TRS to Medi-Share, a Christian healthcare sharing ministry, their family has saved hundreds each month. A member of our team sat down with Katy to get the details.
What prompted you to look for options outside of TRS?
After the birth of our second child, and the decision for me to leave the workforce and stay home full time, Todd accepted a new teaching position in a different district, and we were shocked to find that our premiums had doubled with the new TRS benefits package. We literally could not afford health insurance and still put food on the table. It was outrageous. So we had to find an alternative.
How did the high cost of TRS make you feel?
It's unbelievably frustrating. Educators work incredibly hard, and they make endless sacrifices. Decent pay and good benefits should be a given. It's no wonder that so many people leave the profession when the pay and benefits don't make it worth it.
What was the deciding factor to move your family off of TRS?
I haven't met many other single income teaching families. It is really hard to make it work financially. But Todd is a gifted educator, and we wanted to find a way to make it work so that we could still have a parent at home while our children are young.
How did you find Medi-Share?
I actually learned about the bill sharing concept in college in one of my classes and thought it was brilliant. I did some research into it at the time, but wasn't sure I would be willing to actually try it. Years later, I had a friend mention they had made the switch to Medi-Share, so we started researching it more. It was still just a great concept to us, but after our premiums doubled with TRS we finally made the leap.
When you switched from TRS to Medi-Share, what benefits did you see?
We are saving between $500-$800 a month on premiums depending on the TRS plan. It would have cost $1,200 a month to insure our family on the TRS ActiveCare Select plan. Not to mention that once we reach our annual household portion amount on Medi-Share (comparable to the deductible of the ActiveCareSelect plan), our medical bills are covered at 100%, not 80%!
I also appreciate how compassionate and personal the Medi-Share administrative team is. Any time I've had to call with an issue, as big as a major medical event, or as small as an address change, they've asked for prayer requests and prayed for my family over the phone.
What are the main differences between Medi-Share and traditional insurance?
The financial structure is a bit different. You have a monthly share amount (a provider fee) that you pay to the ministry, you have an annual household portion (like a deductible), copays for doctor visits and hospital stays, and there is a provider network to maintain low costs. Your doctor's office will send a claim to Medi-Share just as they would your insurance company. The biggest differences for me—it is much simpler and more straightforward than traditional insurance—no keeping track of "individual deductibles" and "family deductibles" and coinsurance percentages. You simply pay out of pocket your health insurance costs until you meet one annual household portion for your entire family, and then your medical bills are shared by the ministry. It is so simple. After being a member of Medi-Share for the last 4 years, we've had a baby, quite a few ER/urgent care visits, and a major medical event with a hospital stay—and I can attest that they really do cover your bills. Completely. So while I have to pull out my debit card every time we go to the doctor's office or the pharmacy, I know the maximum of what I'll spend every year even with a medical event and it's never come close to what I would've spent on my premiums alone with TRS.
I've also learned to do some "shopping" when it comes to our medical expenses since we pay out of pocket for them until our annual household portion is met. I use an app and discount cards to find the cheapest price for prescriptions (the cost for the same drug can vary greatly from one pharmacy to another and even one month to the next!). And while some preventative care for children counts toward your annual household portion, vaccinations do not. Because Medi-Share is not considered insurance, families can qualify for free or inexpensive vaccinations through their city's health department—which requires making an additional appointment at the health department for each checkup to get the necessary vaccinations (but completely worth the cost savings!).
How do your doctor visits change using Medi-Share?
Because we have to pay for our own medical bills until we reach our annual household portion, we feel more power over our own healthcare. We have a great relationship with our pediatrician, for example, and always have a thorough dialogue about whether certain tests or medications are necessary or not for our child - since there isn't an insurance company dictating what we need to do.
What impact did switching from TRS to Medi-Share have on your family and your feelings towards health insurance?
We are so relieved and so blessed to have this option! It's given us the freedom to have a parent at home full time while our kids are young. It's made us realize how unbelievably inflated medical billing is. As a not-for-profit ministry, Medi-Share pays the true cost of medical expenses for the members of the program. It's left us with a lot of questions and concerns about the inflated and unattainable cost of health insurance for many families.
Texas teachers deserve better
Take Command Health has done the math and with the subsidy Texas offers, TRS is a good option if you are enrolling just yourself. But once you try to enroll your family members, TRS is more expensive than private plans.
If you would like to see how Medi-Share stacks up against other plans in your area visit Take Command Health. Our free online tool is easy to use and in 5 minutes, you can compare plans with your preferred doctors, prescription coverage, and anticipated medical needs.