Alternative Insurance

From USAToday:

INDIANAPOLIS — Ellery Hunsley doesn’t have health insurance. But eight years ago, when his daughter went through treatment for a brain tumor, the assistant pastor at a local church didn’t worry about the medical bills.

Hunsley paid every bill out of pocket, largely thanks to the help of strangers — people who, like himself, participate in an alternative to insurance, a health care sharing ministry.

Unlike most uninsured Americans, Hunsley will not have to buy health insurance or risk paying a fine under the dictates of the Affordable Care Act. He and other members of health care sharing ministries are among the minority to be exempted from the individual mandate that begins in 2014.

No one views health care sharing ministries as a solution to the problem of how to provide care for as many people as possible. But their existence represents a creative approach that has worked for a small minority for more than two decades.

Health care sharing ministries stem from the New Testament concept that people must share one another’s burdens.

In these ministries, members pay a monthly fee that gets dispersed to a member who needs help paying medical bills. Depending on the ministry, the money may go directly to the family in need or through the ministry.

Most of those who opt to belong lack affordable insurance through an employer. Ministry members must attest they are good Christians and live life accordingly.

“I don’t think it would work without the faith element,” said Tony Meggs, president and chief executive officer of Christian Care Ministry, one of the three large health care sharing ministries. “I don’t think that ultimately it would work outside of this collective moral agreement with each other, that commandment in Galatians that we’re required to carry each other burdens.”…

Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share program has about 50,000 members nationwide and was founded in 1993. Samaritan Ministries started the following year and now includes 20,000 households….

Preventive care is not covered. Members are expected to budget and prepare for such visits, including minor things like trips to the doctor for a child’s cold.

About half of Samaritan’s members fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty levels and in some states would qualify for government aid, said James Lansberry, executive vice president.



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  • Unfortunately this is a very dangerous solution as each of these alternatives doesn’t not guarantee that the costs will be shared, only that you may post your bills for sharing.

    In addition if your children make poor choices and get pregnant or are injured in an alcohol related incident these companies will deny coverage as these actions are deemed not in keeping with their values.

    Finally, and most worrisome, is the fact that these programs are NOT considered credible coverage for insurance purposes. Which means they can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions (at least until 2014) if they choose to seek an alternative upon leaving the parent’s insurance.

    In any case I recommend to my clients to bite the bullet and purchase REAL insurance even though it may cost more as it provides better protection for their families.

  • DRT

    Austin Lee#1 has valid concerns. But I also want to point out that what they are doing is insurance. That is what insurance does, it pools the risk with a big group of people so that the individuals share the expenses. The problem is that these people suffer from the problems that Austin Lee stated. Not a good idea.

  • RobS

    Most of our family expenses and trips to the doctor are preventative, given that we’re pretty healthy folks. So, we pay for an HSA with a pretty good sized ($6000) annual deductible. That helps cap things should a disaster (like a serious brain surgery) comes up. But it also covers the preventative trips the kids need — so I’m out of pocket every month to pay for it, but it does cover the main thing I’m using it for, and protect me against a huge hit.

    If I’m going to spend money on a monthly basis, for our family, having those two pieces of coverage seems more valuable. Maybe others expect they’d benefit from the other side more — especially if you didn’t have kids in the house and you’re maybe 20-30 something and healthy.

  • Jon

    Also, programs like these are not allowed in all states like my own (Nevada). The best thing that can happen to health insurance industries in my opinion, is tearing downthe state lines restrictions.

  • DRT

    Jon#4, that’s ironic since Nevada allows so many other forms of gambling that are much more hazardous.

  • Tony and Felicity Dale are well known in Organic Church circles. Tony is involved in an alternative to typical USA health insurance. Check out the Karis Group ( ) for details of the way their scheme works.

    It’s all a bit of a mystery to me as I live in the UK where we have the dear old National Health Service (NHS) as well as private care and health insurance companies.

  • Medi-share is indeed a unique program for providing assistance with medical care, but unlike health insurance programs this route uses blatant discrimination to prevent certain individuals from benefiting from its service. specifically points out that only those engaging in sexual intercourse within a “Christian” marriage are allowed to join. This immediately eliminates gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals from enrolling in Medi-share. The program also places limits on services it covers based upon religious beliefs and states specifically that abortions will not be covered under any circumstance.

    To be clear, Medi-share is not an insurance program. Medi-share operates as a non-profit group and while members pay into a group fund each month, the money is never Medi-share’s money. Furthermore, Medi-share is not required to pay any bill, nor keep cash reserves on hand.

    Medi-Share is also mentioned in these articles as well .