Guest post by Thad Puckett of The Karis Group
Since my family and I made the decision to leave an old paradigm called health insurance for a liberating paradigm called health care sharing, it seems as if I’ve had more reason to see a doctor than ever before.
And though I always like doctors as people, I simply hate going to the doctor. I don’t think I am alone in that. It’s a part of being male I guess.
But in the transition from the old to a liberated present (in the form of health care sharing), I’ve discovered a few things; things I love about this new paradigm.
What are those you ask?
There are 5.
1. I like the fact that, as a member of The Health Co-Op,* I am able to ask for price quotes for a preventative test which folk are encouraged to have after they pass a certain age.
A local hospital’s quote for that? Over $13,000, but my health advisor at The Health Co-Op found the same procedure for only $1,500. I find it neat that I had someone on my side to help me find a lower cost.
2. It is amazing every month to write a check and a note to another member of Samaritan Ministries as a part of this new paradigm.
Sending checks to insurance companies simply cannot compare to the satisfaction of knowing my check is going directly to someone who has had a medical event of some type (either an illness or injury). The icing on the cake has been the times we have received thank you cards back from someone who has had a need shared by Samaritan Ministry.
3. I have been so incredibly thankful for the lower cost of virtually every medicine we have purchased in the last 13 months.
Remember the old line from American Express? “Membership has privileges”? It’s absolutely true, and the pharmacy benefits (recently improved!) from The Health Co-Op are just that.
You might say, “Well Walmart offers generics for $4.00”, and that may well be the case. But some of us take drugs that aren’t generic, or we live where there is no Walmart. In those cases, the discounts available via The Health Co-Op for pharmacies are great savings. One member said he saved over $70 each month just on one medication!
4. I am amazed at how organized the “Special Prayer Needs” of Samaritan Ministries is.
I am coming up on 5 years of working for The Karis Group, and have been familiar with Samaritan Ministries for the entire time of working at Karis. For the longest time I misunderstood what the Special Prayer Needs list is, but once I became a member, I had an epiphany of sorts: it is the way the ministry crowdsources needs that cannot be shared by SMI. That is my definition, not SMI’s.
Just to remind you, a “share” is the basic amount a member sends each month to an assigned medical need, but the Special Prayer Needs list is an extra amount a member can send above the basic share.
SMI has “crowdsourced” such extra needs long before GiveForward.com or Indigogo. They’ve been helping with these kind of “extras” since 1994!
The Special Prayer Needs list is the way people coming in to The Health Co-Op can receive the blessing of addressing the costs of preexisting conditions that are specifically outside the guidelines of SMI.
If you have looked at how The Health Co-Op and Samaritan Ministries work, you’ll know that every month every member is directed who to send their monthly share to. But what might not be as clear, is that every month each member is also encouraged to send an additional amount ($20 is suggested) to a need that could not be published. The ministry also lists about a dozen other needs that are not shared. These can include dental needs, preexisting conditions or dollar amounts that are past the basic shared amounts.
This powerful model of crowdsourcing is very organized and effective.
And, to me at least, very affirming. As my sister-in-law Lisa has said, “It’s less than the cost of a few lattes at Starbucks! I’m in!”
One more advantage of membership in The Health Co-op in regards to needs that cannot be shared by SMI? The Health Co-Op will negotiate any costs of medical needs that SMI cannot share, whether they get on to the Special Prayer Needs list or not.
5. It has been simply amazing to see how much cheaper health care is in the USA when you are a self-pay patient.
The paradigm of insurance has so many Americans convinced that they have the cheapest possible cost for a medical procedure or service when they have insurance. This is especially pernicious when a person has a deductible of any amount. Health insurance is simply a contract between three parties — a doctor or medical facility, the patient and the insurance company.
But those contracts don’t guarantee lowest cost to the patient, which means that when a patient has a deductible or when she/he goes out of network for a service, all the cost is borne by patient usually at the contracted amount agreed to by the insurance company and the provider. In most instances that price is higher than the self-pay or cash-pay amount.
Interestingly, those contracted prices aren’t always to the advantage of the doctor, as this article points out. I had a conversation recently with the billing office manager at a local physician who noted that when it came to providing services to Medicare patients, their facility loses money on every single one.
No, contracts for health care pricing don’t make for a cheaper service. They just hide cost behind a thick veil of confusion.
Becoming a self-pay patient changes that. When you tell a provider you are a self-pay patient, at least in my experience, you almost always will be quoted a far lower price for a service.
Being a member of The Health Co-Op has been wonderful journey into a very liberating self-pay experience.
To find out more about The Health Co-Op, visit this page and watch the 3 minute video.
Thad Puckett is an employee of The Karis Group, a health benefits company that, among other ventures, runs The Health Co-Op and works with Samaritan Ministries. I highly encourage anyone who is a member of any other health care sharing ministry to submit their own guest post detailing their experiences as a member of a sharing ministry, I’d be thrilled to share those with my readers as well.