In an ever-changing health care landscape, one with very polarized opinions within, many who are researching other health care options discover that Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org), one of the largest health care sharing ministries in America, offers its 224,000 individual members the refreshing opportunity to apply the principles of New Testament living to 21st-century health care.
In a new editorial for LifeZette.com just before the deadline for Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment,Samaritan Ministries Executive Vice President James Lansberry wrote that removing the middle man is the smart way to improve efficiency in health care.
“Third-party payers can create a wedge between you and your physician,” Lansberry wrote. “It also tends to drive up the cost of consumption by disengaging you—the patient. Any time the consumer product is separated from the buyer, it makes all costs subject to the whims of the middle man, and there is no longer objective value with regard to your care.”
In general, doctors may check what insurance plans cover before discussing the best course of action—financially and medically—with the patient. That makes the insurance company the health care customer, rather than the patients.
“You want to be in control of your health care decisions, not have them constrained by a third-party other than you and your doctor,” said Lansberry. “When someone else is paying your doctor, cost-benefit analyses and objective prices disappear. In today’s health care marketplace, there is no price-point equilibrium because there are no market forces at play, and the cost of health care is controlled by the one paying the provider.
“The ACA has only made matters worse,” he continued. “By pushing you to buy a product, the individual mandate not only gets between you and your doctor, but even between you and your insurance plan, because now your insurance plan requirements don’t allow you to choose what you want your plan to cover and what you don’t want it to cover.”
Samaritan Ministries encourages its members, as well as all health care consumers, to look for patient-centered models of health care delivery. Informed patients make better decisions, talk to their doctors, and are able to gain knowledge about their treatment options, such as, for example, the value of one prescription over another.
“The middle man opens the door to price inflation, disengaged patients, and to doctors and patients being on opposite sides because the doctor’s service proposition is no longer in the patient’s best interest,” Lansberry said. “The doctor caters to the insurance company because it is paying him.”
Thankfully, other choices are available. Direct primary care practices and their doctors have said no to insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and are working directly for the patient instead of for the government or an insurance company. The doctors make more money because their overhead decreases dramatically, and the patients are engaged and receive better care, so everyone wins.
Another choice is a health care sharing ministry, like Samaritan. Members of these ministries are exempt from the penalties of the individual mandate and have a better choice of providers, a better choice of treatment and a better product. Members of health care sharing ministries also depend on their fellow members’ assistance rather than an insurance contract.
“Through both of these options—direct primary care practices and health care sharing ministries—patients are able to deal directly with their doctors at all stages, and the wedge between you and the doctor you trust is removed,” Lansberry said.
Members of Samaritan Ministries, with its direct-sharing, household-to-household, non-insurance approach, pay a monthly share of only $495 for a family of any size, while individuals pay $220 and couples pay $440.Samaritan members also pray for one another and include notes and cards of encouragement and comfort with their monthly shares, which are sent directly to other families.
Today, Samaritan members share $23 million per month in medical needs, following the Bible’s teachings to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 | ESV).
More than 68,000 member households (224,000 individuals) in all 50 states and worldwide share each other’s needs, are exempt from the ACA’s individual health insurance mandate and do not share in needs for unbiblical practices, such as abortion.
In Michigan, Miranda and her family’s needs were met by Samaritan members—a perfect example of how cutting out the middle man makes health care more affordable and more effective for both the patient and the doctor.
“I recommend (Samaritan Ministries) to family and friends all the time,” Miranda wrote. “It’s so nice to send money and a personal note directly to someone else, to know that SMI really works to eliminate waste and to know that others are in prayer for you and your family when you’re in need. We’ve had one need for my husband’s eye surgery, and we’re in the middle of another, as we’re expecting our third child. Our family doctor likes this and regularly bills us less than what she’d have to bill through an officially coded insurance visit. As self-pay patients, for the actual surgery portion of my husband’s eye surgery, it was HALF of what they’d normally bill, and all other portions were at least 20 percent less.”
For more information on Samaritan Ministries International, visit www.samaritanministries.org,