Sharing the Need – A Fascinating Account
Since it’s self-published by Samaritan Ministries and initially printed in a modest quantity, Sharing the Burden isn’t likely to be a candidate for any bestseller lists in the near future. Still, having done two rounds of editing on this book, I can recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Christian healthcare sharing plans.
In addition to being written in an engaging style, Sharing the Burden offers an insightful historical slant on this unique way of meeting oft-challenging medical expenses—and at a much lower cost than health insurance.
Written by Michael Miller, senior communications specialist with Samarian, the book provides an inside look at how the ministry started with an idea percolating in the mind of founder Ted Pittenger.
For its first few years, it operated with a part-time staff out of a home office in central Illinois.
Yet, over the past 25 years what began with a handful of Christian families sharing each other’s medical needs has grown to more than 82,000 households, encompassing more than 270,000 members.
Millions in Care
Last year, Samaritan shared more than $370 million of healthcare needs. During its history, it has helped members pay more than $1.8 billion—that’s with a B—of expenses.
I’m quite familiar with healthcare sharing ministries; before going on Medicare, I relied on such plans for more than 20 years.
The two plans we used during that time covered my healthcare costs, as well as my wife’s. Between the two of us and multiple surgeries, they paid more than $250,000 worth of our bills.
The reason I mention the figure is the reaction I encountered one time when I talked with a woman searching for health insurance.
She would have declared herself to be a woman of great faith.
Yet, when I mentioned the program we used, I explained that these plans can’t legally be considered insurance. They don’t claim healthcare costs will be covered, only that they will be shared with other members.
“Well, I need a guarantee,” she replied.
Sharing the Burden
While there are varying approaches, with sharing plans members help other members meet medical expenses through paying a monthly amount that goes to pay others’ bills.
If a member incurs a bill, they notify the office of their need.
The fact that Samaritan and other plans have paid billions of dollars of medical bills the past four decades is proof of their validity.
Valid enough that all the leading major sharing plans acquired exemptions to the Obamacare insurance mandate as that legislation wound its way through Congress in 2008-09.
Although I was aware of the exemption’s passage, in editing Sharing the Burden, I gained additional insights into the fascinating nature of how that happened.
To briefly sum up, through grassroots legislative contacts, prayer networks, and people being in the right place at the right time, the exemption passed.
It happened in such a remarkable way it can only be called an answer to prayer.
Behind the Scenes
Indeed, in surveying the history of these sharing plans, I can only marvel at how God was working quietly behind the scenes to bring about Samaritan and other ministries in the field.
I still remember the time I asked an associate what he paid for health insurance. His monthly premiums were more than three times what my wife and I paid for our healthcare sharing plan, which had a lower deductible.
“If we had to pay that much,” I told him, “I’d tell the company, ‘I’ll have to roll the dice.’”
Fortunately, because of sharing plans, we didn’t need to take that gamble.