(Washington Post) Ministries allow Christians to share health-care costs

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Jase and Jennie Stefanski needed to pay a midwife her $5,000 fee for delivering their sixth child 10 months ago, the money came from an unlikely source: people who are members, like them, of a Christian nonprofit group called Samaritan Ministries. In dribs and drabs, the checks arrived, most between $135 and $320, many with personal notes attached congratulating the family.

The Stefanskis don’t have health insurance. Instead, they belong to a “health-care sharing ministry” whose members follow biblical teachings that they share each other’s burdens — in this case, their medical costs. Each member pays a monthly fee that varies with family size: Single members generally pay $135, couples $270, single-parent families $200 and two-parent families $320. Members pay the first $300 for any medical expense they incur; when they have bills — or “needs,” as they call them — above that amount, they send them to the ministry’s Peoria, Ill., offices. The ministry keeps track of the needs, informing other members where to send their monthly check, and letting those who have made requests know what checks to expect.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance

Posted April 28, 2011 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Teatime2 wrote:

That’s way too risky, on many levels. You could contribute faithfully and then, when you have a major need, you may not get the promised help. And you’re already paying a monthly fee and covering the first $300 of each medical visit so the members would only be hitting the group to cover substantial bills. One unlucky cluster of surgeries and they’re sunk.

Since this program isn’t a guarantor, the people who are participating are being charged full price for medical services and that’s many times higher than negotiated rates. For example, I saw that the full price for the hospital portion of my recent day surgery was over $10K but my insurance’s negotiated rate was about $2K. So, the people in that health program would have to pay $10K, whereas my copay is based on $2K. Huge difference.

It would be better to form some sort of Christian group insurance plan that people could join so that there is oversight and negotiating power on charges/fees. They could still use the parameters for membership that reflect their values but there would be better benefit and less risk. Ordinary things like labor and delivery are very expensive and if a baby or two needs to be in the NICU, there goes the fund.

April 28, 5:15 pm | [comment link]
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