I’ve got a brilliant and terrifying Halloween costume. I’m going as health insurance. I’m basically just going to carry around a stack of papers each candy giver must read thoroughly and sign. Then, instead of getting candy, I’ll demand a co-pay for each trick-or-treater I’m traveling with until the candy quota is filled. Once it is, I’ll be sure to remind each neighbor that they don’t have to pay again until the next year!
On second thought, maybe I’ll just stay home and frighten from my front porch. I’ll make each parent pay an arbitrary fee I’ll set for each kid they bring. And if I get any unaccompanied kids, I get to take all their candy. Maybe they’ll think twice next year about leaving their parents at home. Muahahahahahah!
But seriously, the very thought of health insurance inflicts emotional distress and perhaps even physical pain. To say the state of health insurance is a mess would be an understatement. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you stand; the state of medical expenses and how we pay for them is way past the point of reasonability.
Admittedly, I didn’t really think about these things until I grew too old for my parents’ health insurance. And again, admittedly, pursuing a graduate degree full-time allowed me to stay on their plan while I searched for a job. Because typically, a full-time job comes with health benefits. I use benefits loosely—because co-pays and deductibles sometimes don’t feel much like benefits. Although, thanks to the so-called Affordable Care Act, full-time jobs with full-time benefits aren’t as easy to come by as you might think.
So I kind of went off the reservation. I was working a few different part-time jobs: making coffee to pay the bills, catching the vision of Shattered Media, Inc., and hustling on the freelance writing thing. And, as none of those things came with a traditional benefits package, and the deadline for finding health insurance loomed, I began researching.
I already knew I wasn’t a fan of Obamacare—it may have seemed like an inexpensive option, but I knew there were just some things I didn’t want to pay for. And I also had a feeling it would come with paperwork and phone calls and legalese I just don’t have the brain power for.
I’d heard about medical bill sharing organizations like MediShare on the radio, so I did some research. I liked the idea, but a few details made me uneasy. But then I heard a couple in my church talk about Samaritan Ministries. They needed insurance of some kind because they run a non-profit counseling ministry—no benefits. They told me about the time he needed an appendectomy, and how without insurance it would cost more than $10,000 out-of-pocket. But because they were part of Samaritan Ministries, they only paid a fraction of that, while other Samaritan Ministries members sent money to help with the costs of the appendectomy. And you know what? Every last bit of those costs were shared by Samaritan members.
I was pretty much sold. I researched Samaritan Ministries and found what I had been looking for—a totally different approach to health care, and no ACA penalty.
With Samaritan Ministries, I don’t deal with confusing paper work or legalese, I can choose whichever doctor and whatever hospital I want, and I pay only the first $300 of any medical event. Sure, I write a check each month. But it’s not to an insurance company or even to Samaritan Ministries.* I write a personal check to someone who needs assistance with their medical bills and send it to that person’s house every month. And I usually pray for them as I write the check and a note. Because they’re a real person. With real needs.
I feel like this is how we are supposed to have been doing it all along.
Crowdfunded Healthcare: 2,000 Years in the Making
Samaritan Ministries’ website boasts over 229,000 people are truly benefiting from the Samaritan Ministries network. According to their September 2017 report, over $25 million worth of medical needs per month are paid for without using health insurance. Twenty-five million dollars a month. Let that sink in for a moment. (I seriously wonder how we got here and how much health insurance companies have created rather than alleviated that number.)
This kind of sharing isn’t—or shouldn’t be—a new concept for Christians. The early church is shown in Acts 2 to be an incredibly generous bunch. It says, “All the believers met together in one place and share everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need…all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people” (Acts 2:44-45, 47). As the world has grown and people have spread out geographically, this kind of sharing has perhaps fallen to the wayside, especially in our American Dream culture of Individualism. But technology—the same technology that has brought us this far in the medical field and operates the health insurance industry—is used to bring Christians back together in a Acts 2 kind of way.
Easier Than Open Enrollment
The process to enroll in Samaritan Ministries is refreshingly simple. When I became a member, I provided a minimal amount of health information, a short testimony, and only needed a pastor of my church to confirm my regular participation in the local church. Because Samaritan Ministries works not to replace local church fellowship or tithing of money or time, but simply builds an even greater network of Christians to, as their website says, “share beyond our local church.”
I’ve been a member of Samaritan Ministries for three years now, and I have to tell you, I’m never more glad to write and tear out a check from my Muppets check book than when I send my Samaritan Ministries share to another member each month. I pray for them, I write a quick note to the recipient, and walk my check up to the post office with I think as much joy as one can have when paying a bill.
I should mention—there are a few things that Samaritan Ministries’ guidelines don’t share. But even unpublishable needs are listed on each member’s monthly share, so members can give to those who still need help with their expenses. I think that’s awesome. There’s also the Save-to-Share program which works to help with needs over $250,000.
I really can’t say anything bad about Samaritan Ministries—and I promise they’re not even paying me to write any of this!
Beware The Scare
Huffington Post reported the uninsured rate is going up, and at first glance, that really sounds like something horrible. And while the prices and the politics of the whole thing may be concerning, don’t let the scare quotes fool you.
The article says 3.5 million more Americans aren’t covered this year. But for me and the 228,999 other Samaritan Members, being uninsured isn’t as scary as it sounds.
And it’s not nearly as scary as my front porch this Halloween.
If my Samaritan Ministries story has helped you, and you’re seriously considering in becoming a member, put my name down as your referring member! I’d really appreciate that!
*I do send a check directly to Samaritan Ministries one month every year for administrative costs. But I’m okay with that, because every time I’ve called them for a question or tech support, they are so pleasant and friendly on the phone that I don’t even hate my life while I’m on hold.