Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Look at Health Care Sharing Ministires

I got an E-mail from Samaritan Ministries today regarding a comment the Rush Limbaugh had made about health care sharing ministries possibly being a scam. I took the time to send El-Rushbo an e-mail detailing the wonderful blessings of these organizations. I think it is worth sharing with everyone what they are all about.

A few years back, my husband's brother (also his boss) was forced to drop our Blue-Cross/Blue Shield coverage because of the prohibitive cost to small businesses. They sent us a video tape from a company called Samaritan Ministries to watch. At first, it sounded too good to be true. I was worried that it wouldn't meet our needs as a growing family. There was no dental or vision coverage, and no office coverage. The only alternative was me going back to work full time in order to purchase family coverage through St. Anthony's. That was really not at the top of my list of options. We decided to give Samaritan a try.

Our first month in Samaritan we received a packet with a newsletter, and the name of another member who had a medical financial need. Our "premium" was sent directly to this person along with a card of encouragement, and the opportunity to pray for a fellow brother or sister in Christ. In fact, we never send premiums to Samaritan. Our monthly payments are always sent directly to the person with the need, along with the card and the prayers. We pay an administrative fee once a year to keep the office running and the staff paid. That is all. It seemed really great, but we were yet to experience a need of our own.

When Hannah Jane was about 22 months we had to take her to the ER on vacation for dehydration and vomiting. It was made clear to us that we would have to declare self-pay everywhere we went because of the fact that Samaritan could not be legally described as insurance since we did not pay premiums to a company. As we were leaving the ER we were asked "How are you going to pay for this today?" I asked them to bill me, but they would not take that as an answer. So, I had to whip out my Discover card and charged an unplanned $700 to it. I left horrified. I called Samaritan as soon as we got home and filed my claim, and within 3 months I had all of the money I needed to pay off my bill (minus the deductible.) I was fairly pleased, but mildly disturbed by the question of what to do in the 3 months that I am waiting for reimbursement.

A better understanding of what a blessing Samaritan is came with the birth of my son. Since bills for the birth, prenatal care, etc, were all sent directly to me instead of an insuance company, I was able to see just what the exact costs were. The grand total of all tests, prenatal care, delivery, anesthesia came to just under $10,000. WOW! That is a lot of money. You might be interested to know how much of that we were responsible for....a mere $300. Really. Now, a couple of years later I talked with someone who had a union job and great medical coverage who had to have a hernia repaired. He had 80/20 coverage (which is pretty standard) and when all insurance was paid out he owed $2000. They are still working on paying it off. At the point, I really began to see what a blessing Samaritan was. If that was my husband, we would have only paid $300 of the total bill. At that point, I became so grateful for what I had! I took some time to see and understand all of the benefits of HCSM, but bow I am totally sold!

Money and sickness are top worries in my brain. I am very realistic about what could happen. I am learning to lean on God rather than sit and worry about what could be. Sure we have to pay for office visits, but honestly, it has just made me more responsible about what I call the doctor for. There is a common argument out there that liability is not a driving factor in the cost of health care. Well...I beg to differ. I have been a nurse since 1994, and been employed by a hospital for 15 years. Let me just tell you that I have seen my share of unnecessary tests ordered for patients. We can call it a standard of care, but what much of it boils down to is the fact that many doctors know what will happen if they "miss something." I have refused expensive tests that my doctor thought were necessary. Why? Because she was looking for problems on a "what if" basis, not based on any symptomology, just "what if?" That test would have added over $4,000 to my OB bill. That is a lot of money! A lot of money for a test that would have turned out to be negative and pointless to my way of thinking. It is okay not to run to your doctor for every little thing. I mean, many times have a left an office visit saying: I just paid $75 for THAT!

If anyone is interested in more information on Christian Health Care Sharing Ministries, just let me know. I would be happy to sit and share with you!

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