It’s no secret that medical insurance has been skyrocketing for the last 15 years. Annual increases of 10 to 30% are not uncommon. The increases in premiums are bad enough, but on top of that, the coverage seems to get worse and worse as well.
However, there is an alternative that more and more people are considering. I chose this route two years ago. It’s called health sharing. There are a number of organizations, mostly Christian-based, that offer a health sharing plan. It is not insurance, but it sort of works that way.
Let me explain. The one I belong to is called Samaritan ministries out of Peoria Illinois. The way it works is the company collects a monthly fee that starts at about $400 for the initial person, and then $50 per additional person in your family. One month per year, you send the money to Samaritan which pays them further administration fees. The other 11 months, you are directed to send the money to someone who has a medical need, and that person is different each month.
The role the company plays is to evaluate medical needs based on their policies, and then coordinate how much money is to be directed to each person for their needs. When you actually purchase medical services, you are a cash patient. You make a deal with your doctor or hospital for each procedure, telling them you will pay in cash and you don’t have insurance.
I have found in most cases the doctor or hospital discounts their services dramatically when you're a cash patient, especially if you pay upfront. For example, recently, my son had a surgical procedure on his jaw, for which the hospital and doctor cost was going to be $34,000 if I was an insurance patient. However, the cash price was $8,000 (if I paid upfront). So we did that. We then contacted Samaritan and forwarded the paperwork to them through their online system.
Within 60 days, I was receiving checks from people all over the country, and was reimbursed in full for the entire out-of-pocket amount, which was $8,000 in this case. On top of the checks, almost every person wrote us a note, telling me they were praying for my son and hoping for fast healing. I know several other people who are part of the same program, some with substantial medical issues, and everyone has nothing but great things to say.
On a financial note, my regular insurance through my company, for a family of three is currently $1,200 per month, and we have a high deductible plan where the first $6,000 is not covered. So not only is my Samaritan health sharing ministry cheaper, but the coverage is far better.
The only drawback, if there are any, is that it does not cover pre-existing conditions at all, nor does it cover anything drug or alcohol related. Plus you do need to cover the cost of your medical procedures in cash, or work out a payment plan with your provider until you are reimbursed later. I have found that the payment issue has been no problem at all to work out with the doctors. The reason they give you a discount, is even though they are discounting their services, they still end up with more money in their pocket, and get it much faster from cash patients as compared to insurance reimbursement. Insurance reimbursement often takes up to six months, with tons of paperwork. On top of that, the payments they get are a fraction of their actual bill.
I will admit, it was a little scary when I first started with this program. We have been so ingrained to think that if you don’t have insurance you are at huge risk. However, after two years, my attitude has totally changed. Not only am I 100% confident that any medical issue I have going forward will be covered in a better way financially than my old insurance did, I actually enjoy the process of negotiating with the doctors.
It has been a huge eye-opening experience as to how large of a discount you can get by simply offering to pay in cash. I’ve also declined some procedures that were unnecessarily added. Even though I was being reimbursed for the services later, I felt an obligation to try to spend the money like I was spending my own money.