Thursday, February 21, 2013

Samaritan Ministries - A Biblical, non-insurance approach to health care needs

I have received many inquiries for our testimony of our experience with Samaritan Ministries by people who are considering joining.  So I wanted to share with all of you about this wonderful ministry organization and highly recommend them to you as an alternative to traditional health care insurance.  
Inquiries such as this one,
"Hi Erika, My husband and I absolutely love your blog! I saw on one of your posts how your family is a part of Samaritan Ministries for your health care needs, and our family (of 7 so far) is considering getting out of traditional health insurance, and do not want government assisted health insurance. We have been looking into Samaritan Ministries and were hoping you could share any info. or testimony of how it has been beneficial to your family..."  ~ Julie  
Two and a half years ago the company my husband was working for did not offer health insurance.  Now recently my husband has had the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream of becoming self employed.  As a result of both forms of employment we were facing paying $800.00 +/- for our family of 11 to be covered by even a mere "catastrophic plan" (the bare minimum of coverage).  Are are also adamantly opposed to joining Obama Care, which will soon be required legally in the U.S.  An alternative the Lord lead us to was the organization of Samaritan Ministries (offered within the United States) which we had heard about several times through varying respected friends and professionals ~ and which fulfills the requirement for insurance, and legally excuses it's members from having to join the Obama Care program.

Since the threat of having to join Obama Care is looming over everyone in the United States currently as time runs short to either join up or find an alternative, I would like to first share with you what Samaritan Ministries says about this problem and the solution that is available through Samaritan Ministries.  *smile*  Here is an excerpt from their website:
"If you are a committed Christian, you do not have to violate your faith by purchasing health insurance from a company that pays for abortions and other unbiblical medical practices. You can live consistently with your beliefs by sharing medical needs directly with fellow believers through Samaritan Ministries’ non-insurance approach. This approach even satisfies the Federal health care law’s (Affordable Care Act) requirement that you have insurance or pay a penalty-tax (see 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d), (2), (B)).
The IRS will be issuing details explaining how your participation in health care sharing through Samaritan Ministries will exempt you from the penalty-tax. Since those details will not be needed until 2015 when you file your 2014 tax return, it may be a while before the information is released. Samaritan Ministries is working with the IRS to develop these procedures and will notify all of its members as soon as finalized.
Every month the more than 25,000 households of Samaritan Ministries share more than $6 million in medical needs directly—one household to another. They also pray for one another and send notes of encouragement. The monthly share for a family of any size has never exceeded $370, and is even less for singles, couples, and single-parent families.
For more information, visit our blog. You may also find additional information in our Press Releases and at the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries website."
When we were first researching our options for health care it was a very scary proposal for me to consider not having regular health insurance as I had been raised by my parents with the knowledge that one should never, ever be without coverage even for one day in case emergency or disaster should strike suddenly.  I had heard many stories from my parents of people who had let their insurance laps and in the interim been struck with disastrous circumstances such as near fatal accidents, a brain tumor, or cancer.  So Bob and I began to thoroughly research the organization of Samaritan Ministries, and to inquire from friends about their experience with it.

We went to Samaritan's website and requested the free information packet they offer, and were pleased once it arrived to find that it was very informative and thorough in answering all of our questions.  The website itself is also very helpful and thorough, yet concise.  The tabs across the top of the web page are very well organized and it is easy to find information, including information that one wouldn't necessarily know to ask about.  It includes these things and more:
  • Why Samaritan? -  Several introductory videos:  for Biblical families, for business, schools, and ministries, and one family's personal testimony; testimonies from members; endorsements from groups; information about it's history; about the foundational principles; and accountability within.
  • How it works? - Explanation about how the "Need" process works (an individual's "medical claim" is called a Need); frequently asked questions; and guidelines.
  • What's the cost? - Simple charts about the monthly Share costs (the monthly "fees"); which range from $150-$355 per month per family, plus an additional $180 annual administrative fee.  A Need can be sent in for anything over $100; anything less is considered "out-of-pocket" (cash pay) by the member in person.  But we are saving so much money on monthly fees, we can pay the out-of-pocket expense somewhere if necessary.
  • Resources -  About the Morning Center (prenatal care); The Alliance group (political representation, protection, and information); discount prescriptions; finding health care providers (which does not limit one to only being able to use certain doctors or facilities, but rather offers recommendations and information on making choices regarding health care); and about the PCI allergy program.
  • News - Blog; newsletter archives; podcasts; and press releases.  And from a separate button on the web page down lower one can find answers to the question, What about the new federal health care law?
Here is Samaritan's very well done introductory video for Biblical families:

After we explored the website and our information packet, the only thing we still desired was the testimony of personal friends who had been members for a while.  So we emailed our friends Chris and Wendy Jeub (parents to 16 children).

The Jeub's shared with us that after many years of membership they had nothing but the highest of praise, recommendation, and faith in Samaritan Ministries.  They testified that Samaritan had always been extremely cooperative and helpful with fulfilling their Needs (medical claims) as they'd arisen over the years within their large family.  How their Needs had always been completely taken care of without any additional deductible fees, and the only member payment required is the the first $300 of a Need - all the rest is completely shared within the members and then paid for.  They also told us about how even when one particular medical expense was not able to be shared by Samaritan, the ministry made known the Need to the members and Godly people from around the country sent donations to help the Jeub's financially until that "outside" Need was met as well.  What a blessing.  At one point, the Jeub's even had three different Needs processed within a single year, which were all handled beautifully by Samaritan.  And our own testimony is a shining report as well.

Bob and I published our first medical Need with Samaritan in April of 2012 after having been members for several months.  I miscarried our 10th baby at eleven weeks gestation, and it required some medical intervention and monitoring, landing us with a bill totaling over $7,000 including the prenatal care from the women's clinic at the beginning of the pregnancy.  We spoke by phone with Samaritan about our Need, and they instructed us both in person and via email about how to proceed.  They were very caring and personable, and graciously and quickly handled the extra questions and details with us along the way.  

We gathered our medical bills as they arrived, made copies and sent those to Samaritan, who then organized our Need and published it to the ministry members.  Each member's monthly Share (monthly "fee") is sent directly to a particular member by personal check.  So Samaritan organizes the members assigned to each Need and lets each member know who they should send their check to that month, along with a small personal note.  For our Need we received a list of members names whom we could expect to receive certain amounts of money from to completely pay the cost of our medical bills for our miscarriage.  When we had traditional medical insurance in the past we still ended up with co-pays and large deductibles to pay off.  But not with Samaritan.  Praise the Lord.  *smile*

Before sending in the bills for this particular Need, Samaritan also counseled us in detail on how to get some of our bills lowered because we were cash pay with the creditors.  They even offered the assistance of a company that specializes in helping cash-pay individuals get their bills reduced, while at the same time not pushing for this so much that relationships become strained or damaged.  Samaritan said that they recognize we will probably be in relationship with these creditors again in the future, and they did not want to cause us to "burn any bridges."  I so appreciated this.  Frugal, yet gentle. 

When we were receiving the checks from Samaritan members together with the personal notes, these fellow Believers were so encouraging!  It was like being surrounded by friends during our time of "Need".  *smile*  They told us how they were praying for us, how they related to our situation, they sent cards to comfort us, one person sent a beautiful Christmas ornament as a memento of the baby we lost, and still another member donated Bibles through The Gideons on our behalf.  Amazing.

So over all our experience with Samaritan has felt very secure, scripturally based, supported, and worry-free.  Just as other members we've known have experienced and validated with us as well.  If you choose to join you can mention that you heard about them through Bob & Erika Shupe and they will give us a generous credit toward our monthly Share.

Blessings on your family's health,

Recommended resources:

You might also enjoy my related post:
Large Families On Budgets - Making More Out of Less, Part 1 of 2


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