Obamacare vs. Samaritan Health-Care Ministry: A Case Study

The new law erodes the power of individuals to make health care cheaper & better.

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Video Written, shot, edited, and narrated by Jim Epstein

About 6.45

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  • Sean Parnell||

    The article makes some excellent points, particularly about voluntary organizations receding as government increases its role. But I don't think Samaritan or the other two ministries have too much to worry about. Some of the challenges associated with being a member of a ministry, such as getting billed so-called 'chargemaster' rates, are being addressed by partnering with bill negotiation services. I actually wrote yesterday about The Health Co-Op, a program connected to Samaritan that provides among other things discounted labs, bill negotiation and review, telemedicine services, and discounts on doctor, hospital, and prescription drugs (see here: http://theselfpaypatient.com/2.....-ministry/). The other two ministries offer some similar benefits, although I don't think they're quite as robust as The Health Co-Op.

    This article also overlooks that the deductible for a Silver plan is generally in the $2,000 - $3,000 range, while Samaritan's and the other two ministries start in the $500 range (technically not a deductible, but similar in concept). So while there's little doubt that some people will find exchange-based plans more attractive, that's not always or even usually going to be the case. One of the ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, offers a membership level that has a $5,000 'personal responsibility' amount (think 'deductible') for $45 a month.

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  • Jim Epstein||

    The Health Co-Op seems ike a great program, and most members may want to stick with a health care sharing ministry whether it makes financial sense or not. But as I argue in the piece, even if the exchanges draw away a fraction of Samaritan's membership it could create a cycle that feeds on itself. The system of attempting to line up shares and needs on a monthly basis is precarious.

  • Akalhar||

    Great article. Thanks for researching it and writing it. My wife and I have been doing our own research as well. We're currently not insured, and will be signing up for Samaritan Ministries.

    I know several other families in this area who plan on doing the same, rather than enroll in Obamacare. I'm hoping those families that are gained offset those which are lost.

  • fredflinstone||

    but does being a paying member exempt you from obamacare? I would surely be checking that to be sure.

  • JustinP||

    Yes, it does. As stated in the article, "[Samaritan's executive vice president] Lansberry led a successful fight to get language inserted into the law that specifically exempts health care sharing ministries from the individual mandate".

  • JustinP||

    Again, Jim, while I think your article was good overall, it does seem that the reverse of what you predicted is happening: I just received the latest newsletter and it says that the number of new memberships increased by a record amount last month. That makes sense when you consider the headlines about how much more people are having to pay for insurance as a result of Obamacare.

  • Aaron Everitt||

    I am a member of this organization and we use this service for my family of 6. As a libertarian minded believer, I think it is incumbent upon people like myself to make counter governmental choices like what Samaritan provides. We would choose to stay in this program even if the exchange was more appealing financially because I believe that it is my responsibility to shoulder my brothers needs through care and not force. (donations vs. taxes) We love the program - It worked incredibly for our family in times of need and it helps put a real face to health care. The nameless, faceless government we have built has caused everything to be evaluated financially instead of in the context of the whole. Crazy as it may seem my family makes our decisions on the "cost" of the context. We think that it is better to share our fellow believers burdens than make decisions based strictly on our pocket book. I hope more of these kind of organizations thrive in a more underground economy that results from the bizarre insertion of government control.

  • fredflinstone||

    first understand this, the govt is not a manufacturer, or producer of any working successful system. They are the worlds biggest consumer and waster.they spent millions on technology that is at least ten years old and without testing it to see if it worked which btw this goes along with this huge monstrosity of a healthcare bill that Pelosi said we would have to pass it to see what was in it first, well they then decided to pay out millions in order to launch their flagship that was already leaking profusely on launch then it hit an even bigger soon after launch iceberg, but this time around the whole crew and captain is jumping ship and leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. This is a severely broken system that eventually will have to be trashed.

  • Brian||

    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.

    Why can't anyone get an exception?

    Me: I don't want to buy health insurance.
    Government: Well, we're going to make you pay a tax penalty.
    Me: But God told me not to.
    Government: Oh, well, then, nevermind.

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  • fredflinstone||

    this good Samaritan program is good but could with a minimum amount of tweaking could be better. think about this: if they tweaked their membership requirements to people who hand a good solid major medical policy, and not one from obamacare, avoid obamacare like the plague it is,and after their insurance covered what it would for whatever then divide that expense between members and they are still being a blessing to people,etc. etc. why wouldn't that work according to the article the article is trying to herd people into obamacare and that will not help but hurt in many way's making them much poorer than what they already are. And not give honor to God but man.

  • JustinP||

    The speculation that Obamacare would hurt organizations like Samaritan doesn't seem to be holding up. We signed up with Samaritan over a year ago and the membership numbers (which are published each month in the newsletter) have continued to increase. In fact, I just got today's newsletter which says that a record number of new members joined last month.

    Second, this article is mostly accurate but is a bit misleading when it states that, "Samaritan members pay the entire cost of a routine visit out of pocket and they can only submit their bills for reimbursement that exceed $300." Yes, there's a $300 threshold but it's for a given illness / condition and not for a specific bill as implied here. Also, members are only charged this amount for up to 3 illnesses / conditions per year which (to compare it to insurance) is the equivalent of a $900 deductible for a family. Good luck finding the equivalent of that for $370 per month with an insurance plan.

    Lastly, I'm VERY curious as to where the quoted statistic came from that "the median Samaritan household . . . has three members and an annual income of about $40,000" since I don't remember ever being asked for or providing information on our household income to Samaritan. That claim seems to be a central tenet of this article, but frankly I'm skeptical of the reliability of it because I don't see how that information could be known. The average number of members per household, yes, but not the household income.

  • bocksmj||

    Justin - Why did you choose Samaritan over CHM? Also, i would assume that alot of the members of both of these healthcare ministries would be small business owners... just a thought to your income rebuttal (i agree w/)

  • JustinP||

    I picked Samaritan because our money is sent directly to another member instead of to the organization itself. I know that in the past one of the other two organizations ran into a problem with someone misusing members' money. I found that out when I was researching all three of them because quite frankly my family has always had insurance and I wasn't comfortable giving it up, so I did a lot of research on all three organizations. If I recall correctly, though, the trouble I just mentioned was years ago and I seem to recall that steps were taken to make sure it couldn't happen again.

    The bottom line is that my opinion after doing the research was that any of the big three would be ok, but I guess I felt just a little better about Samaritan. So if you're leaning towards CHM (or already a member) I wouldn't discourage you from going with them, because I would have been comfortable with any them; Samaritan just seemed like a marginally better choice for us.

  • bocksmj||

    Also - With Samaritan members sending checks directly to other members vs CHM members sending checks to 1 office who then directs the monies throughout the country to those who applied for needs, does it worry you at all that if you have a need, a member might not send it to you? Or prorated? I didn't read anything about that on CHM's site but i guess the same would happen there, although i think they have a reserve in place...

  • JustinP||

    About not receiving the money, we haven't had that happen but I seem to remember reading that if it did happen Samaritan would have someone else send us the money and the non-payer would be booted out, though presumably after being reminded / encouraged to pay up.

    The pro-rating thing actually happened recently: they pro-rated at 80% for two months in a row, and the bylaws (or whatever) say that if it happens three months in a row they'll vote on increasing the monthly share. That didn't happen in this case, though, because they had enough money in the third month to make up the difference for the previous two months. In other words, the folks who had their reimbursements prorated wound up getting the full amount -- just delayed a bit. Even if they hadn't that's no worse in my mind than a typical insurance plan that holds you responsible for (at least) 20% of your bills after the deductible (a.k.a. "coinsurance").

  • JustinP||

    Actually, I should have said that if the prorating occurs three months in a row then "we'll" vote on it, because the vote is a vote of all the members / households, not the organization's board. That's another thing I liked about Samaritan that may (or may not; I honestly don't remember) be just as true of the other two: the major decisions are made by letting all the members vote.

  • Independent Texan||

    Mr. Epstein is correct in the aims of Obamacare: to eliminate creative market-based solutions and force everyone into the government program to increase the subsidy pool for Obama voters.

    However, the political backlash in the Christian community is causing Samaritan to grow at the fastest rates ever seen. Precisely because these three ministries are grandfathered, the government has shut the door on creative new solutions, but that gives Samaritan and the others built-in scarcity value. I predict faster growth ahead, not slower.

    At 30,000 families now, there is PLENTY of room for Samaritan to triple in the next few years without making a dent in the Obamacare wealth transfer. That's why the grandfathering was permitted: it was sop to the right, agreed to by the left because the size of the drain from the system is immaterial. Only if these health care sharing ministries grow to be a meaningful percentage of the population, and threaten to materially limit the ongoing rip-off, will the statists try to retroactively take away the Obamacare exemption from them.

    When that happens ..... my goodness. We are well past the tipping point where personal and religious liberties are no longer considered essential by two branches of government. How long will it be before the Bill of Rights is no longer protected by the Supreme Court? When we get there, I think the fate of Samaritan Ministries will be among the smallest of our problems.

  • obloodyhell@yahoo.com||

    }}} 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.

    So I've been told. This remains to be seen, however, since no one has any actual coverage, no one can tell WTF is going on, and the full effects of this insane excuse for a Law have not even begun to be felt.

    With far fewer young adults signing up, premiums have to rise, or subsidies have to rise, which only adds to the stress on the economy which is produced by spending trillions more than we're making each year.

    Doctors, on the other hand, are showing signs of retiring much earlier than they would have, leading to less care and less availability of coverage all around.

    I predict the full and complete repeal of ObamaDon'tCare within 5 years. The real question is if the government will try and replace it with something that's just as big of a clusterf*** as the ACA...

    Chances are, that's a sure thing.

    I predicted in 2008 that, if he were elected, Obama would make everyone appreciate the quivering mound of incompetence that was the Carter Administration. He's MORE than amply done that already, and he's got a couple more years to add to that egregious legacy.

    Obama is going to be almost single-handedly responsible for raising an entire generation of Americans to being staunch libertarians such as has not been seen in this country in 120 or more years. We live in interesting times.

  • Suzanne B||

    Good article, especially the concerns regarding dwindling numbers. I was worried about that before signing up for Christian Healthcare Ministries, but they were apparently getting a new online application every 2.5 minutes in the months before the deadline. I believe one of the drivers for those who qualify for subsidies is not getting roped into the so called "death panels", as well as fears about data privacy. The good thing about CHM is that they accept pre-existing conditions at a lower share level for the first three years and then all of your needs are shared. They also have unlimited catastrophic care with the Brother's Keeper Plan, the lowest overhead of the three big ones and do not reject anyone. I wrote a fairly comprehensive review here: www.christianhealthcareministriesreview.com if you're interested.

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