I’ve seen a couple of stories in the past few days suggesting that the media is becoming aware of health care sharing ministries as an alternative to conventional health insurance. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody familiar with them, given that they provide an affordable and effective way to opt out of Obamacare while still having access to affordable care and protection from major medical expenses.
The article last week on DelawareOnline includes several stories of individuals and families and their experiences as health care sharing ministry members, I’ve excerpted them below
Daniel and Katlyn Street don’t have health insurance. But they do have a new baby girl, a new approach to health care and something they weren’t expecting at all – a new handmade quilt.
The quilt arrived Thursday, sent by someone they have never met, who – along with scores of other people around the nation – also sent money, notes of encouragement and prayers on behalf of the young Seaford couple as they welcomed little Adelyn last fall.
Obamacare doesn’t work like that. Employer-sponsored health insurance doesn’t work like that. Just paying cash at the doctor’s office doesn’t work like that, either.
But Samaritan Ministries, which counts the Street family among its members, isn’t health insurance. It is part of a little-known national network of “health care sharing ministries” that link their members to kindred souls who pool their resources and promise to cover each other’s health care needs…
Katlyn Street said her family got more than 75 notes with financial support enclosed….
…Cathy Adams of Newark, who opposes Obamacare and government involvement in health care in general… said she and her partner decided Friday to enroll with Liberty and expect to save about $200 each month, compared with the policy offered by her employer.
“At first I didn’t think I’d qualify,” she said. “While I believe in God and I am a Christian, I don’t belong to a particular church. For Liberty, that was not a requirement.”
Liberty also accepts same-sex couples like Adams and her partner and welcomes others who don’t line up with the requirements of the other ministries…
The ability to sidestep government regulators and big insurance companies was a big part of the appeal to Jon and Kristen Sherman of Newark, who did months of research before making the shift from Jon’s employer-based insurance to Samaritan in January…
“We have been dissatisfied with traditional health insurance for years,” Jon Sherman said. “But it was the passing of Obama Tax that pushed us out finally.”
“Obama Tax” is Sherman’s name for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare…
The telecommunications company Sherman works … last year shifted to a high deductible plan. He suffered through that in 2013, saw what it covered when one of his sons broke his arm, then said good riddance this year.
“Even with everything my employer put in in 2013 and all the premiums I was paying – we got nothing from the insurance provider,” he said. “Nothing was paid for in the high-deductible, so-called consumer-driven health plan. And the provider, the person at the desk, the caregiver – they have no idea what their services cost and that only gets worse under socialized medicine.”
Katlyn Street said she and her husband had no insurance when she became pregnant. No insurance company would cover those costs. But the mail arriving from Samaritan members covered most – but not all – of the family’s expenses.
The Streets pay $330 a month for their Samaritan shares. And costs are much lower when you pay cash and negotiate a price, Katlyn Street said…
Members say they can live with the “no guarantee” aspect of health share ministries. Adams said she and her partner might make a different decision if they had chronic health needs. And they will reconsider if the plan doesn’t work out well for them.
“But ultimately, you’re responsible for your health,” Adams said. “We’re aware of our decision and aware of the risks. … This is the community taking care of each other, and we’re interested in that.”
The article helpfully provides links to four of the five major ministries (the writer apparently wasn’t familiar with Altrua HealthShare, which I can’t fault her for since I wasn’t either until a few months ago).
- Christian Healthcare Ministries, www.chministries.org
- Liberty HealthShare, www.libertyhealthshare.org
- Medi-Share, www.mychristiancare.org
- Samaritan Ministries, www.samaritanministries.org
- Altrua HealthShare, http://www.altruahealthshare.org
Another article, this one in the national media, also explains how health care sharing ministries are catching on and growing. On Monday of this week, FoxNews aired and published a story titled “Christian alternative to ObamaCare growing fast as deadline nears.” Here’s some of what the article had to say:
With just weeks left to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, a growing number of people are opting to enroll in a Christian alternative to traditional health insurance.
Nationwide networks of fellow believers help share each other’s major medical bills through what’s known as health care sharing ministries.
“It works just like insurance. I have an insurance card. I show it just like anyone else would. I have a deductible. I have a monthly premium that I pay,” explained Eileen Wade, who joined the health care sharing ministry, Medi-Share, in 2011.
The nation’s three largest ministries boast more than 242,000 members, spanning all 50 states, who agree to live so-called biblical lifestyles — meaning regular church attendance; no drugs, tobacco, or sex outside of marriage; and limited alcohol consumption.
This kind of healthier lifestyle helps keep monthly premiums lower than that of other health insurers for most members…
One of the interesting parts of the story was a brief interview with Ron Pollack, who heads Families USA, an organization that advocates for greater government control and provision of healthcare. When I say interesting, of course, I mean interesting in just how ignorant he shows himself to be on the subject of health sharing ministries:
Critics, though, say because the ministries aren’t technically insurance providers, they’re not legally obligated to pay any of the medical bills that are submitted.
They also don’t come with the same kind of protections and promises that come with traditional health insurance, according to Ron Pollack, who is the executive director of Families USA, a health care consumer advocacy group.
“If you know you’re not going to get sick, if you know you’re not going to have an accident, this could work out very well. The problem is none of us can guarantee that, and we want insurance that really insures,” Pollack said.
That’s just absurd. I was actually on a radio show this morning, The David Madeira Show up in Pennsylvania. David is actually a member of Samaritan Ministries, and recounted the story on air of how Samaritan first negotiated down and then paid off a $15,000 bill related to a broken arm he suffered a few years ago.
Pollack is of course free to elect conventional insurance over a sharing ministry, or some other alternative like fixed benefit policies or critical illness insurance. But for him to suggest that membership in a sharing ministry is only for people who don’t expect to have any medical needs is just flatly contradicted by the experience of just about everybody who’s ever been a member of one.
Anyways, the story on FoxNews explained that these ministries are growing in popularity:
The programs are only getting more popular.
Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, membership at each of the ministries has exploded, with nearly 30,000 new enrollees — more than the number of people who selected a plan through ObamaCare in 24 states.
[Medi-Share CEO Tony] Meggs said a big draw for members is the ministries’ health plans don’t cover many of the more controversial procedures that are covered under the Affordable Care Act, such as abortion.
“Some of the qualifying plans in the Affordable Care Act are going to violate their conscience with some of the services that are mandated that the insurance plans cover. I think they’re going to be looking at health care sharing ministries as an alternative,” Meggs told FoxNews.com.
As I’ve noted in the past, health care sharing ministries aren’t for everyone. But for the people that they can and will work for, they’re a great way to save money, be protected from a major medical expense, and take control of their healthcare. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to take a look and see if it might be a good option for you!