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Insurance – Or Not

By Staff | Apr 22, 2010

Several years ago I cancelled my health insurance. I was paying over $850 per month for my daughter and me, for a policy we almost never use. I could not justify it financially, and frankly, I could not afford it.

But you can’t NOT have insurance; I mean, we never know when something is going to go terribly wrong as what happened to me a few months ago. I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and while the tumor was confined to the kidney and is now gone, it was an expensive episode in my otherwise healthy life.

Shortly after cancelling my health insurance policy, a good friend introduced me to a concept called “health care sharing” and an organization that does this (Samaritan’s Ministry.) Samaritan’s Ministry (SM) is a faith-based organization that stands in lieu of health insurance for members. I joined (with a little trepedition). Here is how it works:

n Members pay for the health care costs of the other members by sending checks each month to the members who have “publishable” needs (including most items covered routinely by health insurance). The needs have to be over $300 and up to $100,000. In other words, instead of sending a premium to an insurance company, the checks are sent to individual members.

n Each year, members re-join the organization for the same amount they pay each month. In my case, I pay $172/monthly and $172 for annual membership for me and my college student daughter. The annual membership fee is used to pay the administrative costs of the organization.

n If you wish, you may join “Save to Share” which covers medical expenses over $100,000. That plan costs me an additional $266 per year. The money is deposited into my savings account, on which I earn interest. I send a portion to another member when it is requested (never costing more than the $266 per year).

The real question is this: does it work?

My kidney surgery cost over $40,000. I am now, as I’m writing this, receiving checks in the mail that will cover the entire cost of the surgery. Every day, I open checks, accompanied by get well cards expressing wishes for my health and gratitude that I am now well. I can’t express how it feels to open those checks and read those cards! I hear from people all over the country, people I will never meet and they are paying my medical expenses. What a concept! How wonderful to actively participate in the human family!

Samaritan’s Ministry is faith-based. You must agree to not smoke or engage in other risky behaviors, thus lowering the costs for everyone (which makes sense, doesn’t it?). There are other health care sharing plans that are not faith-based; check out the one that is right for you. The new Obama health care plan makes exceptions for those of us who participate in these plans; I am grateful for that. If you want to pursue this idea for yourself, do your due-diligence. Check out the organizations carefully to make sure they deliver on their promises. The web address for my group is www.samaritanministries.org but don’t limit your research to this one.

Carol is a certified lifestyle educator at the offices of Dr. Alan Gruning in Fort Myers. She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel. She can be reached at 472-4499.