Many of us are very concerned about Obamacare and its impact upon us, the economy and the culture. We've read about how Congress has gained exemptions for elected officials and their staff, but what about you and me? What about the people that actually employ them? While I am all for a good fight to rid ourselves of this monster either through nullification or a complete repeal (not a replacement), there are other courses of action that can be taken. Perhaps this one might just get you an exemption from the UN-Affordable Care Act.
My friend Dr. Joel McDurmon wrote on the subject today at American Vision. He introduced Samaritan Ministries to many who have never heard of it, and I thought I would do the same today. I have been looking into the ministry as well for some time. The company I work for offered me insurance at literally double the cost of what Samaritan charges.
Samaritan Ministries accepts Christians in a local church and they then pay a monthly fee (in my case all of my family would cost about $350 per month, yeah I'm the guy with 10 kids). This is not insurance, but what it is is a way for Christians to bear each other's burdens by sending their monthly payment to other Christians who need the money to pay medical bills. It's really a simple concept and a lot more personable that merely sending in a check.
Many people are still not aware that health care sharing ministries like the one run by my friends at Samaritan Ministries lobbied and debated with Congress hard during the 2009 fight over ObamaCare. As a result of their efforts, and the nature and track record of the ministry, they earned an exemption from the individual mandate in ObamaCare for members of the sharing ministry.
Long story short, join Samaritan Ministries and you are exempt from ObamaCare's individual mandate.
And this comes among the many other advantages of Samaritan, including the facts that sharing costs are in most cases much lower than insurance premiums, and that no money whatsoever ever funds or helps fund abortions, other planned-parenthood activities, or a variety of other sinful lifestyle consequences.
Samaritan is willing to stand by those of the Christian faith in order to help them and also provide a means to helps others in the process. "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," the website reads. "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))."
Jim Epstein wrote a piece at Reason.com at the first of October. He is somewhat pessimistic as to whether Samaritan will last under Obamacare as he wrote, "Samaritan may soon become a casualty of new incentives created by Obamacare, which does virtually nothing to 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."
However, that did not keep him from giving it a fair review. Epstein writes:
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."
Lansberry points out that many members care deeply about what Samaritan doesn't cover. "Do you support abortion, sexual immorality, drug & alcohol abuse with your health insurance?" reads the cover of one Samaritan pamphlet. Joining with "unbelievers" to cover the "health consequences of sinful living," it warns, "is not a way of showing the love of Jesus Christ."
There's also the conscientious approach to wheeling and dealing that takes place in health care. Our family often does this because we always pay out of pocket for doctor visits when we go, which is quite rare.
"Now if you're a doctor and you know the patient that you have to look in the eye will never have to pay a single penny of the cost of these procedures," said Lansberry, "you're going to try and raise your price because there's no reason not to."
Samaritan members have a vested interest in making sure the costs are a low as possible. They are frugal, just like the Brown household.
"If my best friend gives me his credit card and says go out to dinner on me," says Lansberry, "I'm probably not going to have surf and turf because I want to look him in the eye later."
Epstein gives an example of such a scenario that took place regarding a member of Samaritan:
Take Roger Stuber, a Samaritan member and residential contractor in Tremont, Illinois. He experienced a series of seizures last year that revealed a leaky vein in his brain that required surgery. Even in the midst of this terrifying episode, Stuber went to lengths to insure that he wasn't overcharged. The hospital initially was going to bill him more than $63,000 for his surgery, which he negotiated down to just over $36,000. When he was billed $5,000 for a follow-up MRI, at first the hospital refused to offer him much of a discount. So he marched down to the finance office and demanded to see the manager in charge. She eventually agreed to accept just under $1,500 dollars if Stuber paid cash on the spot.
If he hadn't gone to all of this effort, the bills would have been covered almost entirely by other members. "But I'm part of a body there at Samaritan," says Stuber, "and if I can keep costs down, I'm helping the group."
The ministry helps share roughly $6 million monthly in medical need directly to more than 25,000 households. Encouraging notes and prayers are often shared among members and the 94 member staff of Samaritan. They provide for singles, couples and single-parent families and so far the cost has not exceeded $370.
Obamacare demonstrates the twisted, tyrannical approach to government "charity," while our friends at Samaritan Ministries demonstrate how Christ's followers voluntarily care for one another.
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