As a double entrepreneur family–both Mark and I have our own small businesses–health insurance is not a given.
When Obamacare became available we bought a policy through the marketplace. We quickly learned, however, that the “Affordable Care Act” was anything but affordable. Insuring Mark and I and our college student son required a $1500 monthly premium for a high deductible health insurance policy. Instead it should be called the “Accessible Care Act” because it did indeed cover pre-existing conditions like breast cancer which I battled in 2013 and 2014. For that we were grateful.
As we were considering our options we kept hearing about a health sharing program called Samaritan Ministries. I couldn’t imagine not having health insurance. To me that was like not having car insurance or homeowners insurance! You have to have health insurance! Yet, health insurance was becoming unreachable to us financially. We finally decided to do our research and ultimately chose Samaritan Ministries as a health insurance alternative beginning in January 2016.
I’ve waited to share about our health sharing decision until now because I wanted to get time and experience under our belt. I won’t recommend something until I’ve used it long enough to feel comfortable with the resource or product. We’re now finishing up our second year with Samaritan Ministries and I can wholeheartedly say that this is our new normal for managing healthcare expenses.
Here’s how it works: The first $300 of any health incident is covered out of pocket–kind of the same concept as a deductible. (That first $300 can also be “covered” if you secure a discount for services. For instance, if you have a $3000 medical bill and you ask the provider for a cash pay discount and they give you a 10% discount for cash pay, your $300 has been “paid” by the discount you negotiated. Our experience, by the way, is that most providers offer anywhere from a 20%-50% discount for cash pay.)
Expenses above the $300 are shared with other members. So every month we pray for and send our $495 share directly to another member who has a healthcare financial expense to cover. ($495 is the share for a family of 3 or more. When Austin gets married in December, our share will reduce to $440/month for the two of us.) One month out of the year our share goes directly to Samaritan to cover administrative expenses. The other 11 months our share goes directly to another member who has a need. Samaritan matches the needs up with the shares and tells you who to pray for and send your money to each month.
Mark and Austin only have “coverage” through Samaritan. Due to my breast cancer history, we choose to carry a high deductible health insurance policy on me only and I also am a Samaritan member. We choose to carry health insurance on me because Samaritan will not share any expense related to a pre-existing cancer diagnosis until you’ve been treatment-free for five years. I have one more year and then I’ll meet that requirement.
I can’t wait until I can drop my health insurance, but Samaritan partners well with health insurance. In fact, when we were trying to decide what to do, I called Samaritan with some questions. They informed me that if I did health insurance plus Samaritan, it was likely that in most situations, Samaritan shares would cover any health insurance deductible I would have.
Indeed that is exactly what has happened. I had rotator cuff surgery earlier this year. With my $6000 deductible, we were looking at $6000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses. As the bills came in for my surgery and follow up physical therapy, every penny of my deductible was covered by Samaritan shares. I had no out-of-pocket expenses. We didn’t even have to pay the first $300 because the insurance discounts covered that (most providers give insurance companies pre-negotiated discounts on medical costs).
Even if there is an expense that doesn’t qualify for being shared (such as a pre-existing condition, orthodontic work, oral surgery, etc), you can submit those things as a Special Prayer Need (SPN). Each month we’re assigned one special prayer need that we’re asked to pray for and given the opportunity to voluntarily donate $20 or $25 to if we’d like. If every person who gets that SPN is able to also donate the suggested amount, the entire financial need for that “uncovered” medical expense will be met for the member! We could choose to manage our risk of breast cancer recurrence through the Special Prayer Need option, but we’ve determined carrying a high deductible traditional health insurance policy is our best strategy for one more year.
This year Samaritan introduced a new level of membership. What we have is Samaritan Classic. They now offer Samaritan Basic which comes with a lower monthly share amount and a higher threshold amount required for you to cover before a need can be shared. We’ll probably stay with Samaritan Classic, but for some folks Samaritan Basic is just what they need to make healthcare even more affordable. Oh and by the way, healthcare sharing members are exempt from the federal requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty-tax.
We’ve been so pleased with our decision to leave behind traditional health insurance, replacing it with a health sharing plan. If you’re struggling with affording health insurance and are looking for an alternative, we highly recommend Samaritan Ministries.
As of September 2017, more than 229,000 Samaritan Ministries members share over $25 million per month in medical needs directly, one household to another, without using health insurance. It’s a healthy, stable, Christ-honoring ministry that has figured out how to harness the power of community!
If you’re thinking about making a change and have any questions, please ask! We’d love to help you determine if this could be a good option for your family.
And if you decide to make the switch…tell them the Savage’s sent you! We LOVE knowing when we’ve helped someone along the #LivingWithLess journey!