Founder Ted Pittenger’s dream has helped hundreds of thousands to realize a Christ-centered vision of helping each other
October 4, 2022
PEORIA, Ill. — In the early 1990s, Ted Pittenger was operating his own painting and wallpapering company in central Illinois when he became convinced that God was leading him to start a new health care sharing ministry. The eventual result was Samaritan Ministries International (Samaritan), which was to become a leader in the health care sharing ministry community with hundreds of thousands of individuals impacted.
Pittenger had served with two Christian ministries before moving back to central Illinois, so he was quite familiar with ministry work. Additionally, he and his wife, Shari, were already members of another health care sharing ministry, so they were familiar with the concept. Still, with a wife and children (eventually six), Ted faced a daunting proposition — launching a whole new entity.
“From a human perspective, we recognized that what we wanted to do was beyond our own ability without strength and wisdom from God,” recalls Ray King, one of Samaritan’s first Board and staff members, and now editor emeritus of the ministry’s newsletter. “We were also trying to do something that most of society would view with caution, at best applying biblical principles to health care and depending on God to do what His Word said He would do.
“Community sharing was God’s idea and has been a part of the Church from the beginning for nearly 2,000 years (Acts 4:32-37)!”
Samaritan started small when just ten households began sharing medical needs in October 1994. As word got out, more Christians joined and the ministry slowly began to grow. By 2004, about 10,000 households were sharing each other’s needs, and, today, more than 83,300 households with more than 281,000 individuals are members. The ministry has navigated economic crises, the advent of the Affordable Care Act (from which its members gained an exemption), bureaucratic challenges from state officials, countless medical advances, and alternative care options.
Samaritan’s mission is “to redeem health care by helping the Body of Christ love one another through sharing each other’s health care burdens, while experiencing authentic Biblical community.”
“God is weaving a tapestry that involves each of our lives,” Pittenger said. “God is building His Kingdom, and we get to participate by joining Him in His work.”
Along the way, the ministry has blessed many, including its own staff.
“We are grateful to be upholding Ted’s far-sighted commitment to Christian health care sharing,” said Anthony Hopp, Samaritan’s chief purpose officer. “It has given enormous freedom to thousands of individuals and families to choose the best options for them instead of what the health insurance companies and governments prescribe.”
As the ministry expanded, it kept needing new facilities, which became answered prayers.
“When we remember how God has protected and blessed Samaritan Ministries in the past, it should cause us to praise Him with a heart of worship,” said a staff celebratory essay for the 25th anniversary in 2019. It cited the Book of Joshua’s account about the children of Israel crossing the river Jordan into the Promised Land and concluded, “As we look to Him in faith for guidance we will find the courage to face whatever challenges are to come.”
More information about the history and health care philosophy of Samaritan Ministries can be found in Newsletter Editor Michael Miller’s book “Sharing the Burden: The Samaritan Ministries Story.”
Samaritan Ministries currently has a membership of 281,602 individuals from 83,361 households.
Samaritan has no limited enrollment period. Government exchange-based health insurance requires signups to occur only during open enrollment periods unless one qualifies for a special enrollment period due to a “life event” such as losing coverage, getting married, moving, or having a baby.
Samaritan Ministries health care sharingoffers additional advantages:
- No network restrictions. When medical care is needed, Samaritan members choose the health care provider, hospital, and pharmacy that work best for them.
- The direct-sharing approach allows members to not only help fellow believers with their medical financial needs but to pray for and connect with them on a regular basis.
- Monthly shares are hundreds of dollars less per month than insurance.