Health Care Sharing Creates Win-Win Situations for Patients and Doctors
Samaritan Ministries Members Have Tools to Work with Their Doctors to Find Better, Lower Cost Treatments That Are Right for Them
PEORIA, Ill.—In just one example of how health care sharing works on a real and personal level, Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org), one of the leading health care sharing ministries in America, recently told the story of a member and medical professional who partnered together for a very positive health care experience.
Daniel Hatch, a Samaritan member since 1998 and a campground owner in North Carolina, needed carpal tunnel surgery. With wrist pain keeping him up at night, Daniel and his wife, Vivian, checked on what the charges would be locally and discovered the surgery would run about $6,000.
In order to be good stewards of their money, and the money of their fellow Samaritan members, the Hatches checked other prices through MediBid, an online price-searching tool available to all Samaritan members for free. Members simply search for the type of procedure or treatment they need, enter their information and then wait for bids to come in from providers. This fall, the Hatches tried the process, and carpal tunnel surgery bids began arriving five minutes later.
One came from Dr. Christopher Vaughn of Freedom Orthopedic in Dunwoody, Georgia, outside Atlanta. The Hatches did their research and found that other patients had rated Dr. Vaughn 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Freedom Orthopedic’s price was also much lower than the Hatches had found up to that point: $2,800 for the surgery, anesthesia, radiology and hospital expenses—total. The Hatches made the decision to travel 120 miles to Dunwoody in December to meet with Dr. Vaughn.
At the appointment, the Hatches made another surprising and pleasant discovery—Dr. Vaughn was also a Samaritan Ministries member.
“He was very friendly and cordial, a believer,” Daniel said. “I got all the care that anyone else would have gotten. Dr. Vaughn took care of it.”
Added Vivian, “This was very easy for us. We would highly recommend people using MediBid.”
The Hatches paid Dr. Vaughn the day of Daniel’s surgery in December with just one check—meaning just one bill to submit to Samaritan. Members then sent the Hatches financial shares to help with the expense.
While MediBid is helpful for finding reasonable prices for medical treatments, the price the Hatches received is also plainly stated at OrthoFreedom.com, Dr. Vaughn’s website. Freedom Orthopedics offers transparent pricing.
“I complained about our system for so long, even helping to produce the documentary ‘Wait Till It’s Free’ (by fellow Samaritan member Colin Gunn), but never took concrete steps in practice to make a difference,” Vaughn said. “The opportunity became available to step into this practice that Dr. Tom Joseph had started. He had already laid the groundwork, and then I extended it by posting prices for numerous common orthopedic surgery procedures on the Freedom Orthopedics website.”
The key to being able to charge reasonable prices, like the carpal tunnel surgery for $2,800, is the lack of overhead, Vaughn added.
“We do not need to have a team of coders, billers and insurance personnel to bill and make sure that we get paid,” the surgeon said. “Office visits and surgeries are paid at or just before the service for surgeries. The surgery price includes facility, anesthesia and surgery fees. Office visits are a flat fee and include, if needed, X-rays, splints, injections and review of outside images, as well as the consultation.”
Identifying partner hospital and surgery centers that will offer reasonable pricing is also vital.
“Critically important to transparent pricing is having surgery centers and hospitals supportive of the concept and able to give good pricing, because payment is due at the time of service,” Vaughn said. MediBid and Healthcare Bluebook, which is also offered through the Samaritan member Dashboard, “have been helpful in empowering patients to shop and find costs for services that otherwise would be difficult to estimate.”
While Dr. Vaughn says he feels blessed to have had great patients with or without insurance over the years, “there is a special bond that comes with members of Samaritan and other health care sharing ministries.”
“Praying with my patients is a special privilege,” he says. “Knowing that we are working together to build a path to care for people in a more Biblical fashion is extremely rewarding. We have an instant connection when somebody tells me their story about Samaritan.”
Each month, more than 82,000 Samaritan member households (267,000-plus individual members) send their financial shares directly to other members, along with notes and cards of encouragement, through this effective, God-honoring ministry. Samaritan’s growing Biblical community shares approximately $29 million in medical needs person-to-person each month. In fact, from 2007 through 2017, Samaritan Ministries members shared $1.2 billion in health care needs. Yet Samaritan’s monthly share has never exceeded $495 for a family of any size and is even less for two-person and single-person households.