Christian Healthcare Sharing: Considering Health Insurance Alternatives in Light of Obamacare

2342_56372752142_8605_nA few years ago when Rex lost his job, we found ourselves without health insurance for the first time ever. That was not a very happy and encouraging place to be on top of dealing with all the other joys of unemployment. I spent a couple of weeks poring over plans and trying to find one that we could quasi-afford (ha—that was a joke) and that would give us the coverage we needed (yeah, another joke). I remember stressing out a lot about it.

As it turns out, I was stressing out about all the wrong things. Long story short, we were denied insurance coverage based on what we thought were some pretty innocuous pre-existing conditions. So we weren’t able to get health insurance at all. Talk about stressing out.

However, I should never allow myself to get stressed about things because God always provides! We had looked into Christian Healthcare Sharing a little bit, but had dismissed it because we were concerned about getting away from traditional health insurance, mainly because that was what we knew, and what was “mainstream.” The more we checked it out, however, the better it started to look. There are a few ministries out there, but there was one in particular that we kept coming back to. It was Samaritan Ministries. After doing some research, and praying a lot about it, we decided to go with Samaritan’s, and 3 years later, we still believe it was one of the best decisions we’ve made. It is SO much better than health insurance, and we will NEVER go back, even now that we will have the choice to do so (unless we are forced to by the government which, I pray, will never happen).

So what do we love about Samaritan Ministries?

1. The Ministry Aspect – Samaritan Ministries is made up of members who help each other pay for their healthcare needs. When I write my check each month for our “share,” I send it directly to a person who has a need. If I have a need, I receive checks, along with notes of encouragement, from other members who are sending their monthly shares to me. I love being able to see that my money is going directly to help another brother or sister in Christ, helping to bear that (financial) burden, as the Bible encourages us to do. I also love the stewardship aspect of it. Even if our family never has a need to receive a share, the money God has given us is going to minister to someone each month instead of as a premium which goes to line the pockets of some insurance exec. (And, if I’m honest, there is a little bit of satisfaction in “sticking it” to the insurance companies, particularly after having had some bad experiences with them in the past.)

2. The Money-Saving Aspect – Our Samaritan Ministries monthly share is VASTLY cheaper than a monthly insurance premium would be. Currently, we pay $370 a month for the whole family, and that is the most any family pays, no matter the size. There are some things that Samaritan’s doesn’t cover, and I will talk about those a little more, but when you are saving as much as this per month for healthcare, you can afford to sock a little of that away into a contingency fund or savings account to have ready to pay for those uncovered expenses. Not only that, but Samaritan Ministries covers needs exceptionally well.  We have submitted 2 needs in the time we have been with SM. The first was a doozy—my first ambulance ride, time in the ER, a myriad of expensive tests, and an overnight hospital stay. This happened only a couple of weeks after we signed up with Samaritan’s. The second was another trip to the ER (yeah, me again) for stitches in my finger. Want to know what we paid for these visits? $0. Nada. Not one penny. Samaritan members covered it all! Guess what we would have paid if we had been on traditional insurance? With deductibles and co-insurance, it would have been in the thousands for the first time, and at least a few hundred the second, and that doesn’t even include the ridiculous monthly premiums. It would have killed us financially, particularly since Rex was still unemployed and we were already struggling. What a huge blessing it was to have that completely taken care of! We also know of folks who have had their entire pregnancies and deliveries completely paid for by SM, as well as surgeries and other medical needs.

4526032014_6f0c5b0eaf3. The Freedom Aspect – With SM, we can go to ANY doctor or facility that we choose. We don’t have to worry about staying within a “network” or being told by strangers how we will be allowed to handle our own health. I love that. I also love that Christian Healthcare Sharing is recognized by the government in most states as a viable option under Obamacare, so we are free to continue our membership with SM and avoid being forced to buy expensive insurance or be taxed for not doing so.

4. The Generosity Aspect – As I mentioned before, there are some things that are not covered under Samaritan Ministries’ guidelines. But another great thing about SM is that they will present these needs to the membership as “Special Prayer Needs,” and members can opt to send financial help, over and above their regular share, to help offset the cost of those needs. Giving to Special Prayer Needs is completely optional, so there are no guarantees that your need will be paid, but is such a blessing for us! We have been seeing an alternative health practitioner and taking some whole food supplements to heal some health issues, and even though that is not covered under SM’s guidelines, we have gotten some help with the cost from some very generous Samaritan members. Now you tell me an insurance company that does that!

Some considerations:

1. Requirements – SM and other Christian Healthcare Sharing ministries have a list of criteria you must meet in order to become a member. As you might guess with it being Christian Healthcare Sharing, being a committed, God-serving Christian is one of them. SM requires that you be accountable to your pastor and have him/her sign an affidavit saying that you are a consistent attendee at weekly services, and maintaining a pure and holy lifestyle in and out of the church. If you don’t meet the criteria, obviously you won’t qualify for membership.

2. Exclusions – SM and other ministries also have a fair amount of exclusions in their guidelines. To see all the exclusions, you will need to visit their website, but a few of them include pre-existing conditions, preventative care, any expense under $300, alternative medical treatments, and injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident (although you can pay extra to have coverage for MVAs). The amount you save each month over insurance can be put toward these things, but if you have a number of medical issues and expensive medications, and/or go to the doctor a lot, healthcare sharing may not be for you. You have to weigh your options.

3. Pro-Rating – Sometimes there are more needs in a month than there are member shares. In those instances, SM pro-rates the needs and they are paid at 80% instead of the full amount. Christian Healthcare Sharing is not insurance. They don’t have a stash of money to pay bills from. They rely entirely on money from their membership to pay needs, and there are only a certain number of members, which means there is a limited amount of money available. SM holds every member accountable to pay their shares, so you don’t ever have to worry about receiving shares for your needs. But, there is never a guarantee that there will be enough money every month to pay for all the submitted needs at 100%. More often than not, there is. But there are those months when there is not. Most insurance companies don’t pay more than 80% for claims either, and that’s usually after you’ve had to meet a substantial deductible. So 80% is actually very reasonable.

4. Your Responsibilities – There is some work involved with sending your medical bills from your need to SM. First, they ask that you call and ask for “uninsured discounts” on all bills to help bring the cost down. Almost all medical practitioners and facilities will offer these discounts (the hospital where I stayed overnight offered an 86% discount—yes, 86% off the total—because I was uninsured). Then, most of the time, you will be required to pay some money up front, out of pocket, because it takes a few months to get all the bills in, get them negotiated, get them to SM, and then get them out to the members. They encourage you to work out a payment plan with the providers, but usually you have to pay something , and then that money is reimbursed later by Samaritan members.

I encourage you to go to Samaritan’s website: http://samaritanministries.org/. You can look more in-depth at the guidelines and see what the requirements are. I love being a part of a Christian company where the people love the Lord, and care about you as their brother/sister in Christ. Christian Healthcare Sharing is a very viable alternative to Obamacare, and has truly been a blessing in our lives. I pray that it might minister to you as well.

Samaritan Ministries also rewards you for referrals, so if you do choose to sign up, I would appreciate very much if you would put my name down as the referrer 😉 Susan Cunningham.  If you have any questions, please feel free to put them in the comments, or send me a message and I will do my best to answer them! Thank you!

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About Susan Cunningham

Susan lives in Texas with her husband and son. She loves sharing about her faith in Jesus, writing, homeschooling her boy, natural living, eating real food, pursuing health and wellness, and teaching others about essential oils. She blogs about real life at www.livethereallife.com.

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