Samaritan Ministries Treats Myths About Health Care Sharing with Doses of Reality
Are There Regulations for Health Care Sharing Ministries? Will People I Don’t Know Really Send Money?
(Editor’s Note: Second in a two-part series about the 10 most common myths about health care sharing.)
PEORIA, Ill.—Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org), one of the leading health care sharing ministries in America, routinely answers common questions—and counters some misinformed misconceptions—about health care sharing ministries (HCSMs), and is sharing doses of reality in a commentary for The Christian Post.
Since its inception 23 years ago, Samaritan Ministries has enabled hundreds of thousands of people to honor God through their health care, and connects these members as a body of believers that “bears one another’s burdens” as the Bible instructs in Galatians 6:2.
“In an ever-changing health care landscape, many are researching health care sharing ministries—and for good reason,” wrote Samaritan Ministries’ Michael Miller for The Christian Post. “Samaritan works to infuse doses of reality that counter widely held myths and misconceptions about health care sharing. For hundreds of thousands of health care sharing members, the misguided myth is replaced by a welcome reality.”
MYTH #6: Health care sharing ministries are not regulated.
Reality: While it is true that health care sharing ministries are not regulated by state health insurance laws (because they are not health insurance), that doesn’t mean they aren’t subject to any laws. HCSMs are regulated as charities in their home states under each state’s charity laws and each state’s attorney general, and as 501(c)3 charities by the Internal Revenue Service.
But the best regulators are HCSM members. For example, members of Samaritan Ministries elect from within the membership the majority of the individuals serving on the board that governs the ministry. Samaritan’s Guidelines also provide a resolution process, which has been invoked only four times in Samaritan’s history. Evidence also points to member satisfaction through file drawers full of letters from members who like health care sharing and thank God for having provided the ministry.
Myth #7: Health insurance=health care.
Reality: While this might not necessarily be a myth about health care sharing ministries, it’s closely related and a common misconception of those just learning about HCSMs. Health insurance and health care are not synonymous. Health care is obtaining a service from a medical provider. Health insurance is contracting with a third party to pay for those services in exchange for premiums. Just because you don’t have health insurance doesn’t mean you don’t have health care. Doctors are not required to see patients or accept their health insurance.
Being part of a health care sharing ministry allows members to bypass the third parties. They deal directly with a medical provider and directly with the HCSM. It’s a bit more responsibility for members, but they are able to see the actual cost of care, thus helping them be better patients and stewards of God’s provisions. Cash-pay patients, including those who are members of health care sharing ministries, can make better decisions about their health care because they become better informed about the process and costs.
Myth #8: People won’t send money to people they don’t know.
Reality: Samaritan members send about $25 million each month to people they usually don’t know. It can be difficult for someone who doesn’t believe in Christ and the Bible to understand why someone would want to send money to another person they don’t know, let alone trust that a person they don’t know will send money to them when they have a medical need. However, Christians who live according to the instructions of the Scriptures understand their responsibility to help those in need and trust that they will be treated the same in their time of need. Samaritan Ministries believes that, ultimately, God is the One Who provides—often through His children.
Myth #9: Health care sharing ministries turn away people with pre-existing conditions.
Reality: Samaritan Ministries doesn’t deny membership to anyone for health reasons. Needs from pre-existing conditions aren’t eligible for sharing as regular needs. However, needs related to pre-existing conditions may also be submitted as a “Special Prayer Need.” SPNs are needs that fall outside the Guidelines but that are causing a financial burden. In addition, needs related to conditions that existed before a person joined may eventually become able to be shared under certain conditions, such as an absence of symptoms for a certain number of years depending on the condition.
Myth #10: Health care sharing is a pyramid scheme (or Ponzi scheme, etc.)
Reality: Here’s how the Securities Exchange Commission defines a “Ponzi scheme”: “an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.” And here’s the SEC’s definition of a “pyramid scheme”: “In the classic ‘pyramid’ scheme, participants attempt to make money solely by recruiting new participants into the program. The hallmark of these schemes is the promise of sky-high returns in a short period of time for doing nothing other than handing over your money and getting others to do the same.”
Members of Samaritan Ministries send their money directly to each other. The only money sent to the ministry’s office is an enrollment fee and an annual membership share. Health care sharing is not a “Ponzi scheme” because there is no promise of “returns” to “investors.” In fact, Samaritan goes to pains to make sure anyone interested in joining knows there’s no guarantee of any kind of payment because health care sharing is not health insurance. Samaritan operates on faith, and the method is effective.
Bonus myth: Health care sharing is too expensive for the average family.
Reality: The facts reveal that it is health insurance that is too expensive for the average family. According to the 2017 Milliman Medical Index, the cost of health insurance for a family of four without employer contribution is $26,944. “Of the $26,944 spent by the MMI’s family of four,” the report says, “$11,685 is paid by the employee, through a combination of $7,151 in payroll deductions for premium, and $4,534 in out-of-pocket costs incurred at time of care.”
By contrast, a year’s worth of Samaritan Classic monthly shares for a family of four is $5,940 ($495 per month). These numbers are even less for Samaritan Basic.
Last fall, Samaritan Ministries introduced a new membership level, Samaritan Basic, which offers a lower monthly share, coupled with a higher initial unshared amount, giving both current and future members another way to make the best health care sharing choice for their families—and their budgets. Monthly shares for Samaritan Basic start as low as $100 for one person, $200 for two people and $250 for a family of any size, depending on age. Some guidelines differ between Samaritan Basic and Samaritan Classic; contact Samaritan Ministries for details or visit this link.
Each month, 75,000 member households and more than 240,000 individuals pray and send notes, cards and monthly financial shares directly to other member families, along with notes and cards of encouragement and prayers. In this way, Samaritan members share $25 million in medical needs each month through an effective, affordable and God-honoring ministry for Christian families.