The word “insurance” can create powerful images in most people’s minds. Whether you have it or not, it may not be doing as well for you as you would like.
Today, we are pleased to present a guest writer who has first-hand experience in raising children with and without insurance. Based on his experience, and because he is our Director of Research, we know that his insights will provide you with greater leverage as you weave your way around this new world of “insurance.”
How Christian-based medical needs sharing programs can alleviate your burdens
By Michael Donaldson
Most of us are now all-too-familiar with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare as it is commonly called. Yes, more people have health care coverage than before, but most of us are wondering why the word “affordable” is included in its name. Health care coverage is anything but affordable, and costs will continue to escalate as long as the root causes of poor dietary choices and sedentary lifestyle habits remain the same.
So, you have to buy insurance or pay the penalty. You don’t want your money going to pay for abortions or immoral lifestyles. But you don’t get to choose what procedures your insurance company covers, and neither do they, as health care law dictates that to them as well.
So, are you between a rock and a hard place? Are there any other options? Do you just hope the government will pay for your health care if you ever really need it?
I have good news for you. When the ACA was being debated in Congress, it turns out that the Senate version of the bill was the one that the president signed into law. In this version of the bill, but not the House of Representatives’ version, there was a provision written in that allowed exemptions for members of health care sharing ministries. These could not be new ministries, but ones that had been established and continually operating since at least January 1, 2000, with outside financial accountability and yearly audits. The good news is that there are four such ministries in the USA.
Here are the four ministries:
- Christian Care Medi-Share
- Samaritan Ministries
- Christian Healthcare Ministries
- Liberty HealthShare
The basic concept is that born-again Christians with similar and sincerely held beliefs mutually agree to share in meeting the expenses of each others’ health care needs. Members “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” as it says in Galatians 6. The non-profit ministries act as clearinghouses to put together people who mutually bind themselves together to help each other. You, and in some cases the ministry, will try to get as much of a discount as possible for paying cash. Usually there is a substantial discount available from many providers.
There is no legal guarantee that anything will be covered, but if you don’t share faithfully, your needs won’t be covered. These ministries are not health insurance. They are something far better.
Together these ministries help more than 450,000 people in all 50 states. Each ministry has their own guidelines, ways of dealing with preexisting medical conditions, qualifications for membership, and method of distributing shares of those who give to those who need help. You will need to look at each ministry’s information for the details.
Since about 1994 my family and I have been part of two of these health sharing ministries, except for a couple of brief lapses with no coverage. We first were part of the Christian Care Medi-Share program. I especially liked their emphasis on health—like offering and paying for intensive lifestyle interventions for people who wanted alternatives to heart surgery. They have discounted share amounts for people with normal waist size, BMI (body mass index) and normal blood pressure, all markers of good health and long-term lower risk. They also covered expenses for midwives doing home births, which was a big plus for us as well. One negative that we experienced was that at one time they required us to take government money for maternity coverage before sharing our needs with the ministry. They have changed their policy just to encourage, but not require soliciting private charity and government handouts, but not soon enough for us. We bailed and became members of Samaritan Ministries after our first set of twins was born.
One aspect of Samaritan Ministries we have always appreciated is the direct sharing between people. Each month we write a check to an individual for a specific need, and send along a note of encouragement. There is a definite personal touch to this approach that gives it a family appeal, so different from an automated checking account withdrawal to pay another bill. And when you have a need, you get checks from individuals and notes of encouragement, often with nice Scripture greeting cards as well.
And the best part of this—it really works and it is affordable, unlike the ACA. How much does it cost to cover a family of 15 with regular insurance? I don’t even know. But currently for $405 a month I know that if I should have a medical need, I would receive financial and spiritual support from members of Samaritan Ministries. And I know that as I share each month I am helping out a faithful brother or sister in the Lord with a real need. We have had maternity needs met for twins born in a local hospital. We have had friends who have had needs, even large ones for emergency neck surgery and pins and rehab, met smoothly and completely.
So, check these ministries out. They may not be for everyone, but there is room for a whole lot more people. It is a concept that works and works very well.