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ObamaCare vs. Christian Health Sharing Organizations

Posted on October 2, 2013

My wife is enrolled in Christian Health Care Ministries. She pays $1,000 a year for health insurance.  The federal government will offer plans that may be cheaper for some families. But will they switch to federal health care insurance? I hope not.

When Jason Morris’ son Cole was two years old, he broke his thighbone and spent several weeks in a full-body cast. The medical bills came to about $13,000, but Morris, his wife, and six children don’t have health insurance. Instead they belong to Samaritan Ministries, an organization of devout Christians who chip in to cover each other’s medical bills. Following the usual process at Samaritan, members from all over the country mailed the Morris family small checks that added up to enough money to cover all the bills. “We had the emotional side of it,” says Morris, “but the financial side of it was completely taken care of.”

Samaritan has about 86,000 members spread among all 50 states, which makes it the largest of three “health care sharing ministries” in the U.S. Households of three or more are required to send $370 each month to another family to help cover the bills from a medical crisis. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, where 94 staffers coordinate the bill-sharing process, the organization is based on the belief that patients are ultimately responsible for their own medical bills.  But in times of crisis, the community bands together to pitch in and help bear the burden. “Faith in God applied to health care,” is one of the organization’s mottos.

"We had the emotional side of it, but the financial side was completely taken care of."

Samaritan may soon become a casualty of new incentives created by Obamacare, which does virtually nothing to do reduce third-party payments in delivering health care. When their bills are mostly covered by insurance companies or the government—which may also be heavily subsidizing their premiums as well—patients aren’t discerning shoppers.

Under Obamacare, most Samaritan members will be able to purchase health insurance policies that offer richer benefits for lower prices, thanks to significant taxpayer subsidies. Take, for example, the median Samaritan household, which has three members and an annual income of about $40,000. Under Obamacare, that family will pay around $2,500 dollars a year to buy a middle-of-the-road “silver” plan on the new health care exchanges. Why so cheap? Because taxpayers will pick up two-thirds of the total cost of the insurance premium. Compare that $2,500 price tag to the cost of an annual membership in Samaritan, which comes to $4,440, and that average family will save nearly $2,000 per year for quitting Samaritan and signing up for a subsidized insurance plan that’s more comprehensive. About 90 percent of Samaritan members have incomes low enough that they’ll qualify for at least some federal subsidies on the exchanges. Depending on a variety of factors, households making up to 400 percent of the poverty line may qualify for premium subsidies.

Samaritan’s executive vice president, James Lansberry, is optimistic that most Samaritan members will stick with the ministry because of its theological mission. He’s also convinced that the biggest threat from Obamacare is already out of the way. Lansberry led a successful fight to get language inserted into the law that specifically exempts health care sharing ministries from the individual mandate, which would have required that members buy a traditional health insurance policy or pay significant penalties. “We look at our exemption from the individual mandate as a miracle from God,” he says. Regarding the exchanges, “members will stick with us even if it doesn’t make financial sense, because by belonging they’re expressing their religious beliefs.”

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9 thoughts on “ObamaCare vs. Christian Health Sharing Organizations

  1. “Christian health sharing” was common when I was a kid in the ‘30s & ‘40s. It seems like all the hospitals were built and run by churches. I was born in the “Good Samaritan Hospital” in Los Angeles, managed and run, I believe, without any taxpayer involvement.

  2. I'm old enough to remember when doctors made house calls and hospital beds were $100 a day. Because hospital beds were so expensive (haha!) people limited their stays to as short as possible!

    If I'd been enrolled in the program Gary's wife is in, I wouldn't now be stuck with $14,000 of debt from a three-day hospital stay (for tests only, NOT treatment). This was a 70% charity discount from the original bill of around $45,000, btw. My, my, how times have changed. How's that third-party payer system working out for us? It won't be any less expensive under Obamacare either. The costs will just be shifted to the taxpayer as third-party payer. Money will come from taxes instead of premiums. Somehow, I think it will be even more expensive, since insurance companies are inherently more efficient than government. Of course, just about anything is more efficient than government

  3. We are 15 year members of Samaritan Ministries and we will not be leaving them. We are committed to the ministry and it has worked well for us. Why leave for an experiment.

  4. ”We look at our exemption from the individual mandate as a miracle from God,” he says.

    Errr, No. Your exemption came from Hussein, your new Messiah.

  5. Gliderider says:

    That was a terrible comment. Obviously you do not believe it when the Bible tells us that "In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him" Proverbs 21:1

    Someday you will believe it. I pray it is not too late before you commit.

  6. Under Obamacare, there is a panel of bureaucrats that will determine what will be treated and what will not, with the Christian health sharing the treatment will be determined by the patient and doctor.

  7. My Authorized version of Prov. 21:1 reads: The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

    That does not seem to be the same sense as the translation quoted by Gliderider. KJV seems to say that God has the king's heart under His control in a similar fashion as He has the courses of rivers under His control. God turns the heart of the king in whatever direction pleases Him.

  8. Marilynn Reeves says:

    If he is our new messiah we are already in hell.

  9. I do hope that you were being sarcastic when you made that comment.