Welcome to 2014!

Are you one of the millions of people whose health insurance premium shot up when the ball in Times Square came down last night? Odds are you just got pummeled, and not from the partying crowds.

Many of you are trying to figure out what to do about your escalating healthcare costs. Premiums and deductibles are up and Obama’s website is down. Do you risk living without insurance and paying the $95 fine? Maybe you are thinking about compromising your Christian beliefs to enroll in a plan that mandates coverage for medical procedures you find unnecessary or sinful and disgraceful. Before you accept either of these options, you owe it to yourself to look at another alternative.

If you are an active Christian (is there another kind, really?), there is hope. Medi-share ministries have been around for years, but after the recent healthcare laws were passed, they are increasingly coming to the forefront. A number of these ministries are exempt from the Affordable Care Act mandate and offer biblical alternatives. Medi-share is not for everyone, but for many Christians, one of these ministries could offer just what you are looking for.

What is medi-share?

Let’s start by saying what it is not, medi-share is not insurance. One ministry offering medi-share is Samaritan Ministries, and their website answers the question, “Is Samaritan Ministries’ health care sharing some kind of Christian health insurance?” this way:

No. Insurance is usually thought of as a contract whereby one party agrees to be legally responsible for and accept another party’s risk of loss, in exchange for a payment called a premium. Health care sharing is an arrangement whereby Christians share, to assist one another with medical expenses through voluntary giving. We are not licensed or registered by any insurance board or department since we are not practicing the business of insurance. We do not assess applicants’ health risks, because neither the ministry nor the members are assuming financial liability for any other member’s risk. Unlike insurance, the focus of Samaritan Ministries’ need sharing is not on what you might receive financially if you have a need, but on how you can help others with the needs they have right now (Acts 20:35). 1

Okay, medi-share is not insurance, so what is it? From a layperson’s perspective, medi-share is a ministry that connects Christians to help each other pay for medical expenses on a monthly basis. Members share approved needs through the ministry newsletter and the other participating members send money to help cover the expenses. It is a very simple concept, and it works. I don’t want to use this post to describe in detail how medi-share works; the ministry websites do a thorough job of that. However, I do want to give you a basic idea. Here is a real life example, my own.

Cost & Benefits

My wife and I currently participate in the Samaritan Ministries medi-share program. Every month we get a newsletter from them with the name and address of a participating member together with information about their approved need, or “share”. In response, we send a check, along with a note, directly to the member to help pay their need, to encourage them, and to let them know that we are praying.

The ministry also gives us an opportunity to help pay for an additional need that does not qualify for normal “sharing,” such as major dental work. It is a joy to send that check every month to a fellow believer and to be a part of meeting their need directly.

Each medi-share ministry has guidelines regarding who they will allow to participate. I urge you to be thorough in your due diligence when checking out their programs. Some have basic health guidelines for weight, pre-existing conditions, etc. Look for the one that is right for you and your family.

How much does it cost? You will need to ask each ministry for their share amounts. For a married couple with no children, our share each month is just $360.00. We have no deductible, no maximum, and no co-insurance. However, there are a few downsides.

Prescriptions normally are not sharable and neither are regular checkups and doctor visits. To offset this situation, companies offer free prescription discount cards that provide huge discounts for medications, up to 85% in some cases. Along with a prescription discount card, the savings in the amount we pay each month allows us to save enough so that when we do need to make a routine doctor visit we can pay out of pocket.

The following are ministries that I am aware of: Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministries. One of them may be just what you need to start the year off right.

Edited 9 Sept 2015