Affordable Care Act Endangers Health Care Sharing Ministries

October 8, 2013

When Jason Morris' son Cole was two years old, he broke his thighbone and spent several weeks in a full-body cast. The medical bills came to about $13,000, but Morris, his wife and six children don't have health insurance. Instead they belong to Samaritan Ministries, an organization of devout Christians who chip in to cover each other's medical bills, says Jim Epstein, a producer at Reason TV.

Following the usual process at Samaritan, members from all over the country mailed the Morris family small checks that added up to enough money to cover all the bills. "We had the emotional side of it," says Morris, "but the financial side of it was completely taken care of."

  • Samaritan has about 86,000 members spread among all 50 states, which makes it the largest of three "health care sharing ministries" in the United States.
  • Households of three or more are required to send $370 each month to another family to help cover the bills from a medical crisis.
  • Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, where 94 staffers coordinate the bill-sharing process, the organization is based on the belief that patients are ultimately responsible for their own medical bills.

Samaritan may soon become a casualty of new incentives created by ObamaCare, which does virtually nothing to reduce third-party payments in delivering health care. When their bills are mostly covered by insurance companies or the government -- which may also be heavily subsidizing their premiums as well -- patients aren't discerning shoppers.

The demise of Samaritan and other outfits like it would be cause for concern. Subsidized health insurance plans through the exchanges provide richer benefits than a membership in Samaritan, but they do away with incentives that over time are the key to driving down prices and driving up quality.

Source: Jim Epstein, "ObamaCare vs. Samaritan Health-Care Ministry," Reason Magazine, October 1, 2013.

 

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