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:
www.SamaritanMinistries.org

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


41 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. We are also members of Samaritan's Ministries and have been blessed by the organization and its members during several times of need. The most recent was when our 4th child was born nearly 4 years ago. It was a very complicated pregnancy/deliver which required a long stay in the hospital, a surgery and a long recovery time in the hospital--all for me, baby was fine. The total hospital bill (not counting other departments) was $101,000. We did receive major reductions in the bill for being "self-pay", and Samaritan's members took care of it all. I can not praise them enough. Truly brothers and sisters caring for the needs of brothers and sisters.

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    1. Thank you for your testimony! =) Praise the Lord!

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  2. Thanks for your review of this! We have been considering it for when our health care coverage ends in July (husband just got out of military after 16 years). It seems like the most affordable and logical way for our family to go.

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  3. I noticed on their website that they don't cover preventive costs like checkups, immunizations, mammograms and the like; doesn't the cost of those expenses get prohibitive?

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    1. We no longer do immunizations or therefore check-ups either (we now do check ups through our chiropractor/naturopath instead of with a pediatrician), and we've had so many babies I haven't need to pay for an additional mammogram. =) But even if we were paying for those $100 office visits once in a while we'd still save a TON of money.

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    2. Hi Erika, I'm not sure if I'm interpreting your statement correctly or not. I'm also quick to say it's none of my business either, just curious. Are you saying you choose not to immunize at all? If so, I would love to read more on why you chose this. Again out of curiosity, not because I'm challenging your choices.

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  4. Thanks for your testimony, Erika!
    I am one who had emailed you a bit ago asking you to share you experience with Samaritan Ministries. I am happy to say, that we have since decided to go this route and have our application ready to send in tomorrow actually. I was happy to refer to your family and your blog as the place we learned about this ministry. I'm glad your family will get the credit toward your monthly share. :)

    Blessings to you and your family,
    Kristen S.

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  5. Hi! I love your blog... I've been an avid follower for quite sometime :) I recently started my own blog (3 posts so far!) about my life, my family, motherhood, etc. It is new and I do not have any followers yet. Would you like to follow/subscribe to my blog? In case you are wondering, I am a mother to 7 (almost 8 children!), including 4 biological children and 4 adopted children. I also homeschool and have two children with special needs. I plan to blog about everything I just mentioned. Would LOVE if you'd follow/subscribe/spread the word about my blog!

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  6. Hi Erika,
    Thanks for your post - this is a topic we've been very interested in over the past several years as our health insurance costs grow and grow! I'm sorry for the loss of your little one - we have gone through that multiple times and it is always very, very hard.

    We have looked into both Samaritan's Ministries and Medishare, and have thus far decided not to use them because of a few significant reservations. (I also come from a similar upbringing, in which it would be considered very foolish to be without health insurance for even an hour :) I also worked in a rehab hospital, so I witnessed these "disastrous" cases on a daily basis, further cementing my personal requirement for good health insurance.) I'd love to know if you had similar reservations, and if so, how did you work through them to come to a comfort level with the organization. Here they are: (to be upfront, the policies of both organizations have blended in my mind, so it is possible some of these are reflections on Medishare, but I think they are very similar in their policies.)

    1. They state that concerning cancer, they will cover costs for an initial diagnosis, but if that cancer proves to metastasize at a later date, those second round of cancer costs would not be covered. This is a big deal to me - what would you do if this happened?

    2. If you should need to switch to traditional insurance later on, since this is not considered "insurance", you would be viewed as having a "gap" in your insurance coverage, which, I believe in our state, can preclude you from receiving coverage for pre-existing conditions with the new insurance company. Any thoughts?

    3. As a matter of principle, we have been very turned off by their policy of not covering health-related costs arising from "sinful" behaviors - i.e. out-of-wedlock pregnancy, drug rehab, etc. I just can't imagine Christ turning his back on helping someone in need because of their sin, and I have a hard time coming to terms with this.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on these concerns, as we both come from a very pro-insurance background.
    Also - did you look into Medishare, and if so, how do they compare with Samaritan's Ministries?

    Thanks so much!

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    1. Our family recently decided to switch from traditional health insurance to Samaritan Ministries and I have some thoughts on your 3 stated reservations, if you don't mind my sharing.

      1. I believe that, should a scenario like the one you described happen, that the second round of cancer would be covered or "shared," assuming the first cancer diagnosis happened during your membership to Samaritan Ministries. My understanding is that the second round of cancer treatments would be considered part of the same event or "need" as the first round, as it was part of the same cancer event. Again, this is my understanding, but I believe the only way this second round of cancer treatment wouldn't be shared is if the first diagnosis happened before joining the plan, or if you reached your $250K maximum for that need. To further protect our family, we have opted to be members of the Save to Share in addition to regular membership which would allow for any needs over $250K to be shared as well. This is my understanding, but you should probably call Samaritan Ministries and ask someone there your specific question to be sure you are clear on their policies in this regard.
      2. The insurance "gap" is a possible issue, should you feel the need to rejoin traditional health insurance. However, when I spoke with our traditional health insurance company regarding this very same question, I learned that preclusions for pre-existing conditions would not, at any time, apply to our children under the age of 18. I also learned that since our health insurance would be through my husband's employer, we would be allowed to re-enroll during their yearly open enrollment period without preclusions for pre-existing conditions. I am not certain that these are the rules across the board, but it's worth checking into for your specific situation because you might be happily surprised. :)

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    2. 3. I don't believe the heart of this ministry is to turn their back on those who are living the consequences of a sinful choice or lifestyle. But as Christians, I believe it's acceptable to hold each other accountable to the standards God has given us and to share each other's burdens within the context of a community of Christ-following, Bible-believing Christians. Certainly, love and compassion are required in our interactions with those who are suffering for their sin in a tangible/medical way. However, it wouldn't be fair or appropriate, for example, for me to make a conscious choice to have extramarital sex or drink to drunkenness (making a conscious choice to turn from God's commands and toward sin in those decisions), expecting that the result of my sin should be equally distributed among all those in my Christian community. As those who love and follow Jesus, we should certainly offer love, forgiveness, compassion and aid to those suffering as a result of their sin, but this ministry, as an organization, wouldn't be the appropriate context for that. Certainly each of its members should be living a life of compassion toward others, but that's different that requiring them to equally share the burden of choices clearly outside God's law. Just food for thought: Our family's heath insurance is 100% covered by my husband's employer. However, because we are switching to Samaritan Ministries, the cost of our monthly health insurance premium will be added to my husband's take-home salary. We are not doing this so that we can line our pockets, but rather to have all the more money available to give back to God in the form of regular contributions to ministries who serve and disciple those who are not in Christ. The money we are saving on our own health care is going to care for orphans, widows, victims of sex-trafficking, those in poverty or those who simply do not know the love of Christ. We believe that joining Samaritan Ministries actually allows us to all the better steward the gifts God has entrusted to us, while, in regards to our heath care, living out biblical principles in a community committed to sharing in each other's burdens as we follow Christ. Perhaps this might be true for you as well?

      Just my thoughts as you are wrestling with the reservations you have.

      Blessings to you as you seek God's will for your family in this.

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    3. Kristen,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful replies to some of our concerns - I really appreciate it!

      I do believe that S.P. states that it will not cover a metastasized cancer (i.e. "round 2") even if the first was under coverage - only a "new" cancer. My husband and I really, really WANT to LOVE Samaritan's Purse, but these kinds of exclusions are a big concern. We would love to save this kind of money, but what if one of us happens to have a metastasized cancer? Then all of our savings are for naught, because those kinds of bills would cause us to lose everything. We're trying to determine if this is really good stewardship. (on the other hand, we don't feel paying for our current insurance is good stewardship either, because it is such a large portion of our income - so not sure where to fall on this.)

      Thanks for your suggestions on the insurance gap - I guess that would be something I would have to look into with our individual circumstances/insurance companies. Unfortunately, my husband is self-employed, so we have no employer plan to fall back on - we'd be out on the market alone - :(

      I hear what you are saying about our concern for consequences of sinful behaviors - and I guess I feel more in agreement with you for the adults - i.e. the subscribers of the plan, but I have a harder time with it when it pertains to the children. We're the ones who have made the lifestyle commitment and must abide by it - our children, sadly, will not always do so. I've been very involved with a crisis pregnancy center, and know what a big stumbling block it is for these moms in crisis to not have a way to pay for their medical bills, and can sometimes be a big factor between abortion and carrying the baby - so I just cringe when I hear about the refusal to cover these health expenses - it is not only the woman who must face these consequences, but the unborn baby, as well. I appreciate your thoughts, but it just doesn't sit right with me. At the very least, I would love to see S.P. or Medishare have a voluntary fund for these kinds of cases, where members can voluntarily share the finances of those needing care for an out-of-wedlock child, or drub rehab, or even mental health, which is not covered, either.

      Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions about the program - I was so glad to get some feedback about these reservations. Like I said, we really want it to work, and just trying to work out some of these issues in our minds.
      God Bless!

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    4. Kristen,
      I just double-checked, and you are correct - the limitation on a metastasized cancer appears to be for pre-existing cancers, before membership. When I first read this, I understood it to mean any metastasized cancer would not be covered, but this is not correct - thanks!

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    5. I just applied to Samaritan, and I believe I read on their website that because they want to encourage unwed mothers to either keep their babies or give them up for adoption, those maternity costs can be published as "special needs." Nobody is required to chip in, but those who can, do.

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  7. I was happy to see your post about Samaritan Ministries. My family and I have been so very blessed by this organization. We had a little girl born with Trisomy 18 who lived 17 months. She was hospitalized 5 times (two of those times she had heart surgery) and had numerous doctors visits and therapies. Samaritan Ministries covered the majority of her bills which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Besides the financial reimbursement, it is so wonderful to be a part of a group that PRAYS for each other. I've saved the hundreds of cards we received during Lilly's life that included checks. And after Lilly died, we received so many sympathy cards - and even gifts - from members who read about Lilly in the newsletter and wanted us to know they were praying for us. You sure won't ever get anything like that from traditional insurance!

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  8. We went with medi-share because of our own unique situation. I have to say though health insurance premiums would have been $11,000 for one year! That would be well over a third of our income, medi-share was a huge blessing!

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  9. This is so interesting. How does this plan work with the new heathcare law? I believe that under the new law people are required to be insured otherwise they pay a penalty. Is this type of coverage enough to keep you out of hot water with the law?

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    1. Samaritan's website answers that question. And the bottom line is, it works just fine to go with only Samaritan. =)

      http://samaritanministries.org/healthreform/

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  10. That's good. Samaritan is not a choice I would make but I think it's great for people who feel so inclined. Also, i'd hate to see people find themselves in trouble with the law for this choice.

    I was reading about the Morning Center hospital and mobile clinics. Such a fabulous idea! IMO - Faith is one thing, action is where it's really at!

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  11. Dear Vanden Brinks,

    We can appreciate your concern regarding the points you've listed. Feel free, any time you have uncertainty regarding the wording of one of our guidelines, to call our offices at 877-764-2426 (8-5 central, Monday through Friday) for answers to your questions.

    There isn't language that excludes recurring or metastatic cancer events from being shared. It sounds like a misunderstanding in communication.

    While we do not claim to offer "continuous coverage", our legal counsel can draft a letter explaining your membership with Samaritan Ministries. We have provided this for members transitioning back to insurance in the past. We aren't aware of any problems with acceptance based on the letter.

    Again, if you'd like to further discuss any of these matters, please call 877-764-2426!

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    1. Thank you, Mike for taking a minute to answer those difficult questions. While we like to think we have a good grasp of how Samaritan works it is so great that everyone at Samaritan is so eager to help.

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    2. Yes, thank you very much for your reply. I am glad to know I have misunderstood the cancer limitation. When I read Question #19 in the FAQ section of the Guidelines, I did not realize that this was only referring to cancers before membership - thank you for clarifying this for us. I am also glad to know about the potential of a letter to help qualify one for continuous coverage - that's very helpful. Thanks very much!

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    3. This is moot with the new healthcare law. All insurance companies are required to NOT deny for pre-existing conditions.

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    4. It's not moot because healthcare sharing ministries are not insurance companies and are not subject to the same rules.

      I'm currently evaluating the options and so far like Samaritan Ministries' offering the best for myself & my wife. CHM seems rinky-dink and I'm concerned about past legal issues surrounding Medi-Share including them having been sued in and barred from offering their service in at least one state, though that seems to have been resolved. o_O

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  12. Erika - Thanks so much for this article! We are currently uninsured due to job loss and are considering this for the future. Here's one question: What about expensive prescriptions? During my pregnancies I require an incredibly expensive medication (Zofran) at high dosages. I would be incredibly concerned if we had problems getting this covered. Any info on that topic?

    Thanks for the blog, as always!!

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    1. There is information on their website regarding prescriptions. =)

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  13. Very helpful post here! We are considering Samaritan or Medishare. And I will now be checking out your blog more often -- great stuff!!

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  14. That was great! thanks for sharing this good information....very good job my friend.Atlanta Home Care Services

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  15. Thank you for the info! I've been looking through the guidelines and do not like that they will not publish mental needs/illnesses, vision (i.e. glasses)and some other things. The fact that they ignore mental care bothers me greatly.

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  16. Thank you for sharing! My husband and I are prayerfully considering joining Samaritan. If we go this route, we will definitely reference you on our application.

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  17. I have read the website carefully and can't determine this one question. called the company 1-800 number and was told they don't have anyone to answer questions for me right now, will call back when they have someone who will answer questions. Um, ok. So here is the question...when you join, is there a period of time you have to wait before you can submit a need? If I drop my health insurance, something might happen immediately..would I be able to submit the need or is there a holding/waiting period? Does anyone know the answer?

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  18. Ooops..spoke too soon. Samaritan Service Rep called back and said there is no holding/waiting period. Sign up this month, something happens next month and you are totally able to submit the need. Awesome!

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  19. wow' wonderful family picture , Very helpful post here! We are considering Samaritan or Medishare.Find a roommate in everyone 1 click shows results on map dynamic filtering system room share extensive search criteria new rooms mailed to your inbox route plot for your house visit cnd much more... All for free!

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  21. For those of you who have SM, what do you do for dental and vision? Do you have a separate policy or pay cash, or something else? I am considering joining SM, but my family needs the dental and vision.

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  24. Erika, I am working on my application for Samaritan Ministries right now, but wanted more information from satisfied members. Your blog provided this and I am using your family as my referral, so you will receive credit for this membership.

    My husband was recently laid off an eligible for Medicare. We are considering SM as an alternative for him as well. Do you know anyone in that situation?

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    1. Praise the Lord! =) And thank you for your referral!
      No sorry I don't know any one else in your husband's situation.

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