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Old 03-10-2016, 01:11 PM
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satogaeru satogaeru is offline
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Default Health care ministries

Christians Flock to Groups That Help Members Pay Medical Bills


Quote:
Because they are not insurance companies, sharing ministries provide no guarantee that members’ medical debts will be paid; members are advised to trust that God will provide. The ministries say the payment system is helping Christians fulfill a biblical mandate to share one another’s burdens.

“Our only assets are the good will and continued participation of our members,” said James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan, which is based in Peoria, Ill.
Wow.

Quote:
Still, membership in sharing ministries has more than doubled over the last six years, to 535,000 from about 200,000, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries. More participants live in Texas than in any other state
Texas, your independent spirit never ceases to amaze.

Actually I'm very curious how this works. It seems like it would really open the door to antiselection. Per Christian Health Ministries' FAQ it seems you can enroll in this even if you have insurance. Also, my understanding of ACA coverage is hazy but couldn't you just turn around and enroll on the exchanges during the next open enrollment after you exhausted your max benefit from your ministry?

The whole article spoilered:
Spoiler:
Quote:
SAN ANTONIO — When Chris Doyle learned that his health insurance deductible would climb to $10,000 last year, he and his wife, both evangelical Christians, “spent a couple weeks just praying,” he said.

Then they opted out of insurance altogether, joining something called a health care sharing ministry, which requires members to help cover one another’s major medical costs as they come up.

While such nonprofit ministries have been around for decades, interest in them has grown since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, largely because the law exempts members from the requirement to have health insurance or pay a yearly fine.

Samaritan Ministries International, which Mr. Doyle and his wife, Sarah, joined last winter, plays matchmaker, assigning member families to help pay the medical bills of other members. The money is mailed directly to the families in need, often with handwritten prayers or notes of support — or in the case of one family here, strawberry stickers and a drawing of an elephant for their 5-year-old as she recovered from ear tube surgery.

Because they are not insurance companies, sharing ministries provide no guarantee that members’ medical debts will be paid; members are advised to trust that God will provide. The ministries say the payment system is helping Christians fulfill a biblical mandate to share one another’s burdens.

“Our only assets are the good will and continued participation of our members,” said James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan, which is based in Peoria, Ill.

Some ministries operate differently, requiring members to pay monthly into accounts from which funds are disbursed to those with eligible medical bills. Pre-existing medical conditions are often not covered, nor are preventive care, mental health and injuries resulting from behavior the ministry considers immoral or reckless. Members who acquire a sexually transmitted disease from an extramarital affair are out of luck, for instance, as are those injured while driving drunk or during a melee.

Still, membership in sharing ministries has more than doubled over the last six years, to 535,000 from about 200,000, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries. More participants live in Texas than in any other state, according to Samaritan and the two other largest ministries, Medi-Share, based in Florida, and Christian Healthcare Ministries, based in Ohio. Under the terms of the federal health law, only members of ministries that have operated continuously since December 1999 are exempt from the requirement to have health insurance.

The growth seems to have come largely through word of mouth, at churches, schools and workplaces. Mr. Doyle, a machinist, heard about Samaritan Ministries at Grace Point Church in San Antonio, whose pastors and employees are members and whose congregants post about it on Facebook.

He and Sarah, who stays home with their two toddlers, mail a flat $405 payment to a fellow member every month, the standard rate for families of three or more. Had they stuck with the insurance he was offered through work, the Doyles said, their share of the premium would have been about $600 a month, and they would have had to pay the first $5,000 in annual medical costs outside of preventive care.

Under the ministry, they also have to pay the first $300 of any medical expense they incur. They have not yet had a doctor’s bill exceed that amount, though they are waiting somewhat nervously for that day to come. Samaritan limits spending on each injury or illness to $250,000, with exceptions for people who agree to pay extra each year toward others’ bills above that amount.

“There’s a little bit of fear going into it,” said Mrs. Doyle, 33, adding that she suspected she had a hernia that would need to be repaired soon. “What if people don’t pay their share and what if the money doesn’t come in? But that’s where the faith-based part comes in — I’m really going to rely on God.”

Mr. Lansberry said Samaritan members’ eligible medical bills average, cumulatively, over $16 million a month. Its membership has grown by about 50,000 over the last year, to nearly 200,000 people in 58,000 paying households.

Acknowledging that many families can qualify for subsidized insurance policies with free preventive care through the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Lansberry said that most new members were not “joining primarily on price; they are joining primarily on principle.”

Before members can be reimbursed, they sometimes must pay upfront for their medical care — potentially a sizable outlay, since hospitals increasingly require at least partial prepayment. It then takes at least two months for Samaritan to process their requests for help and for checks from other members to arrive in the mail.

The most harrowing part of health care sharing so far for Kyle Burkholder, the teaching pastor at Grace Point, and his wife, Stefani, was paying $6,500 upfront for their daughter’s ear tube surgery, they said. They waited for what seemed like forever for other members’ checks to come.

“About 90 days after her surgery, sure enough, the money did start showing up,” Mrs. Burkholder said. “And it was with handwritten notes — every day it was one, two, three notes, and she was reading them aloud, and I found myself just crying.”

Members with “special prayer needs” — conditions that are not eligible under the ministry’s rules — can also ask for financial help. Last month, for example, Samaritan’s newsletter highlighted the case of a woman with uterine cancer diagnosed before she became a member, and a teenager who tore a knee ligament in a dirt bike race.

Upon joining, members waive their right to sue, and in the case of Samaritan, appeals panels of randomly selected members are supposed to settle disputes. Mr. Lansberry said such panels had been convened only four times since Samaritan’s founding in 1994, and that the organization had never been the subject of complaints to state attorneys general or insurance commissioners.

The insurance commissioner in Washington State did try to stop Samaritan from operating there in 2011, saying it was selling “unauthorized insurance,” but the State Legislature then passed a law explicitly exempting health care sharing ministries from regulations.

Insurance commissioners in Kentucky and Oklahoma had tried to block Medi-Share, the Florida-based ministry, but were thwarted when their legislatures also passed protection laws.

In 2001, Ohio’s attorney general sued one ministry — known then as the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter, and now as Christian Healthcare Ministries — ultimately forcing its leaders to repay $15 million they had spent on homes, vehicles and excessive salaries out of the central fund where members had sent payments.

Members have filed a handful of lawsuits against Medi-Share after bills they had expected to be covered were not. The cases were settled out of court. While the health law requires the ministries to submit to annual independent audits, critics question whether that safeguard is sufficient.

“Our message has consistently been that this is not a health insurance product that we regulate, so buyer beware,” said Nick Gerhart, the insurance commissioner in Iowa. “A premature baby could cost $1 million pretty easily, so it wouldn’t take very many of those to put a significant strain on any group, let alone an unregulated group like this.”

Lee and Amy Jebson of Chesapeake, Va., were not expecting any major medical costs when they signed up for Medi-Share in 2014 after being priced out of the plans available through HealthCare.gov, the federally run insurance marketplace. Then their 8-year-old son was found to have acute lymphoblastic leukemia, leading to several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of medical bills in just the first few months of his treatment.

“One single fever is a $10,000-a-night hospital cost,” said Mrs. Jebson, adding that her family pays a $500 monthly share toward other members’ medical costs, plus $2,500 a year toward their own. But so far, she added, their bills are being covered, with the exception of a few thousand dollars.

They, like others interviewed, said joining the ministries allowed them to live by their religious beliefs rather than follow a government mandate to buy insurance that may cover things they do not want to pay for, like abortion (though half the states do not allow plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, at least, to pay for abortions) or birth control.

“It’s really a model of wanting to take care of someone else — not being told, ‘You have to,’ or ‘I’m forcing you to do this,’ ” Mr. Jebson said.

The Doyles said that their impression might change if they incur big medical bills, but that for now they appreciated the personal nature of their monthly transactions.

“There’s something different about writing my check to someone who needs it,” Mrs. Doyle said. “I feel like I’m loving on somebody instead of just paying my premiums.”
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Old 03-10-2016, 02:47 PM
Chaos Theory Chaos Theory is offline
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Isn't this just a self-funded plan without the stop loss and administration from an insurance company? What are the differences?
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Old 03-10-2016, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Chaos Theory View Post
Isn't this just a self-funded plan without the stop loss and administration from an insurance company? What are the differences?
Seems the main difference is that if this group runs out of money, then too bad for every "member" who "donated" money.
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Old 03-10-2016, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Chaos Theory View Post
Isn't this just a self-funded plan without the stop loss and administration from an insurance company? What are the differences?
I may be speaking out of turn - this is not my area - but I thought self-funded plans were still considered insurance and still subject to insurance requirements such as not allowing pre-existing condition exclusions and not allowing lifetime coverage limits. These sharing ministries are not insurance and so they are not subject to these regulations.

The oversight appears to be quite different, as well. Another quote from the article:
Quote:
In 2001, Ohio’s attorney general sued one ministry — known then as the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter, and now as Christian Healthcare Ministries — ultimately forcing its leaders to repay $15 million they had spent on homes, vehicles and excessive salaries out of the central fund where members had sent payments.
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Old 03-10-2016, 03:06 PM
jas66Kent jas66Kent is offline
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Sounds like another religious scheme that is ripe for fraud.
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Old 03-10-2016, 09:21 PM
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This reminds me of the old Onion article, "Jesus Is My Health Insurance"

Spoiler:
http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/jesus-is-my-health-insurance-11311

Jesus Is My Health Insurance
COMMENTARY
May 23, 2007
Gladys Parker


I tell you, people these days have lost their faith. Everybody's turning to the television or drugs or the government to solve their problems, when they should be trusting in the Lord.

Why, just the other day I went to County General because my legs were giving me awful pains, and this nurse starting asking me questions about providers and what was my health care plan and wanting my insurance card so she could copy it. I said, "Child, I don't need all that fancy paperwork—not as long as I have Jesus in my heart."

No matter what sorts of hardships and illnesses life throws my way, I always count on the Lord to oversee my managed care. So I told that nurse to send my bills right up to heaven. Send them right on up, because Jesus is my preferred provider and He always grants me full coverage. After all, Jesus believed in healing the sick and helping the poor, so He most definitely believes in paying my doctor bills on time.

The Son of God doesn't screen for pre- existing conditions, and the only requirement for coverage is that you accept Him into your life. There is no deductible with the Lord, and every doctor, clinic, and hospital is in His network. As long as I get down on my knees and submit my claims every night, Jesus will accept them. Even though Peter denied Him three times in a single night, He never denies me, no matter how many ovarian cysts and respiratory infections I might develop.

As long as I place my $10 weekly premium in the Holy Redeemer collection plate every Sunday, my spirit is full with the Lord. He maketh me lie down in green pastures, leadeth me beside the still waters, and covereth hospital stays for up to 90 days per benefit period.

Unlike many earthly health plans, the Lord's benefit summary is endless. It includes full vision and ambulance and X-rays. Hemodialysis, infertility treatment, dental, and gynecological exams are also included, as well as physical and occupational therapy. And well-baby and well-child care is covered too, including immunizations and hearing tests. For additional benefits details, consult your Bible.

But best of all, Jesus' plan is the only one that covers the greatest health benefit of all: everlasting life. Yes, indeed—the Lord primary-care provides.

Now, I remember the days when I was all alone in the world. Until I found the Lord, I was consumed with fear because my heart problems were getting worse and I had to be on these special pills and I couldn't afford regular insurance with my hotel housekeeping job. That's when I discovered that Jesus' emer- gency room accepts everybody. No lines, no waiting, no forms to fill out. He lifts my soul but never my rates.

Oh, once in a while those folks from P & H Collection Agency come calling, but I know it's just Jesus testing me. For I know that just as He delivered Lazarus from the tomb, the Lord will deliver me from the $80,000 in unpaid medical costs on my billing statement.

Today, I just give myself to the Lord and know that He will always provide a substantial portion of my net health-care costs for non-elective surgeries and routine office visits. And with the Holy Spirit as my death and dismemberment policy, my next of kin will one day reap the riches of heaven. Praise be.


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Old 03-16-2016, 12:24 PM
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It's not a new idea. I know there was a Lutheran association around that did this 20+ years ago.
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Old 03-16-2016, 12:35 PM
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I think the Christian Science version would be the most profitable.
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Old 03-16-2016, 12:57 PM
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I think the Christian Science version would be the most profitable.
Membership might be low, however.
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Old 03-24-2016, 03:25 PM
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It's not a new idea. I know there was a Lutheran association around that did this 20+ years ago.
Samaritan (the one discussed in the article) paid for a family member's cancer treatment over 20 years ago - this was the only form of health insurance I ever had before starting employment as an actuary.
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