Two important updates on health care sharing ministries that I want to share with all of you.
I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that Altrua HealthShare, a ministry based out of Texas, may not be eligible for the exemption granted under by the Affordable Care Act (more popularly known as Obamacare), which only allowed members of ministries existing since 1999 to be exempt from the tax on being uninsured. Because Altrua appeared to have begun operation in 2000, it looked like members wouldn’t get the same exemption as members of the other ministries (a shame, in my humble opinion).
So I was thrilled this morning to receive an e-mail from the Executive Director of Altrua HealthShare letting me know that they have recently merged with what was, if memory serves correct, one of the original health sharing ministries, Blessed Assurance Bulletin. This means members of Altrua will have the same exemption as members of other sharing ministries.
With his permission, I’ve posted his e-mail to me below.
I read your latest Self-Pay Patient article on Health Care Sharing Ministries dated October 3, 2014. In order that your readers may be better informed regarding Altrua, we thought it best to send you an update directly.
We are pleased to let you know that Altrua HealthShare and Altrua Ministries, both established in March of 2000, has merged with Blessed Assurance Bulletin earlier this year. You may recall your own mention of Blessed Assurance Bulletin in an article you wrote back in 2005 (see http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2005/09/01/medical-sharing-societies-offer-affordable-alternative-insurance). Blessed Assurance Bulletin began assisting its members in sharing healthcare needs among its members back in the mid-90s, forming a Texas non-profit corporation in 1997, has continuously shared needs from that time all the way through the merger.
Altrua has submitted its Substantiation Letter to the HHS for recognition and qualification as a HCSM. Although we have not yet received a letter of formal recognition, we remain confident that recognition is forthcoming. The arbitrary December 31, 1999 date, chosen by the drafters of that particular section of the Affordable Care Act, is no longer an issue.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Please know that I appreciate what you do in supporting all HCSMs. It is refreshing to hear a voice that celebrates an alternative to typical insurance and allows our biblical beliefs to be viewed by others as we care for one another’s needs through our medical cost sharing ministry.
Yours in good health,
Randall L. Sluder
Altrua HealthShare/Altrua Ministries
The other update has to do with my earlier post about Christ Medicus Foundation Curo, a health care sharing ministry option aimed at Catholics. CMF Curo is part of Samaritan Ministries, and the partnership helps to resolve the same issue as the one facing Altrua above, that members of ministries that haven’t been in existence since 1999 aren’t exempt from the tax on being uninsured.
The post prompted a number of comments, raising several issues and questions. A few days after I put up my post, I received a message from David Wilson, Founder and CEO of CMF Curo that a great job of addressing many of the questions and comments that were raised, and with his permission I’m posting his response here.
Sean, thank you for your coverage and discussion on CMF CURO. In specific response to your dialogue above, we are confident in the status of the very specific provision in the law (26 U.S.C. 5000A (d)(2)(B)) that clearly exempts health care sharing ministries from the individual mandate. In fact, we are working to continue to promote expansion of these provisions in both the House and the Senate.
Sean, your answer in reference to solvency can be expanded further. CMF CURO and Samaritan are unique in that the sharing of medical needs is strictly direct from one member to another, (CMF CURO and Samaritan never “pool” the money). Meaning the “solvency” of the ministry is really the solvency of the 37,000 households of our membership. As Sean notes, the financial record over the past 20 years has been impeccable, outstanding. Member-to-member Christian charity and community is truly powerful and beautiful.
Raymond, in reference to your practice, I congratulate you on moving to a direct care practice model. This is clearly a great, positive, movement for the future of primary care – providing to your patients the time and passion to assure best quality care. Direct care practices are a great compliment to CMF CURO and health care sharing ministries. Assuming that you are a primary care physician, I recommend that you continue to charge your “annual membership fee” as you have it structured. For your Christian patients, CMF CURO – SMI offers them the opportunity to actively practice their faith through Christ-centered health care sharing. It also, of course, provides them the ability to share their medical needs and expenses (outside of your practice) for specialist and facility care. Under CMF CURO, your patients can attend the doctor of their choice – you. They pay directly for your services and share expenses outside of your services for professional and facility expenses, all together for much less than the cost of traditional insurance – getting all the benefits of both your care and the Christian health sharing ministry.
In relationship to your question on payment amount and network, again it is important to note that our members select their physician and facilities of care, without restriction.
The CMF CURO price for services, what we call the “love your neighbor price” (LYNP), is calculated at 125% of Medicare. Lastly, the CMF CURO debit card makes health care sharing easier for the patient and the physician. The card is both a membership and health care debit card, and it can only be used to pay health care providers.
I hope this is helpful to you both.
Please contact us through our website at CMFCURO.com for any additional questions and we will work to respond promptly.
Peace and Joy in The Lord.
David E. Wilson, Founder of CMF CURO
The ‘Raymond’ referenced in the letter, by the way, is Dr. Raymond Kordonowy, a direct primary care physician in Fort Meyers, Florida, whom I profiled back in July.
All in all, it appears that health sharing ministries are well positioned to be an alternative for people who are looking for alternatives to high-priced conventional health insurance or want to escape from bureaucratic medicine!