Friday, May 18, 2007

Alternative Non-Insurance Insurance

In recent years, I have become acquainted with more and more young women - whether they have chosen to pursue a college education or not - who have wished to stay in the home of their parents and serve their family and church until marriage. Some have desired to start a cottage industry from their home, while others have wanted to spend all of their time helping to homeschool their siblings and/or learn the skills of being a keeper at home. I have also met many fathers and mothers who have these wishes for their daughters. However, there seems to be one big obstacle that has stood in the way of making this a reality for as long as it is desired: insurance.

When young adults reach a certain age (depending on the particular policy), they are usually no longer eligible to remain on a father's health insurance plan. When a child is in college, that age for being excluded from the plan is usually extended. But, if a young adult chooses to become an apprentice outside of a university setting or wants to remain home to learn the skills of the home, many feel pressured to enter the workforce to pay for insurance even when none of the family members want this to occur. The fear of unknown injuries and illnesses and the debt they will cause is too great to allow many families to endure the risk of going without insurance.

I went on a mission to find out how some families deal with this issue, and each one I contacted directed me to Samaritan Ministries. This is a network of Christian families and individuals who work together to cover the medical expenses of those in need. The basics are these:

1. Members share their needs with Samaritan Ministries after medical procedures are completed.
2. Samaritan Ministries then publish the needs after they are processed.
3. Members pay a set membership fee per year plus a standard rate per month ("shares") based on their particular membership status as individuals, couples, or families.
4. Samaritan Ministries assigns members to other members with needs, and members send their shares directly to the individuals who have bills that are due.

Established in 1991 and operating in this format since 1994, Samaritan Ministries is present in almost 12,000 families. I set out to ask a few friends how their families handle their medical costs, but I had no idea how many were members of this organization. I'm pretty sure there are some Primitive Baptist elders whose families participate in this ministry or one similar. In fact, in the past two weeks, I found out that a few of my friends from high school and college that are now in the ministry for other denominations are members. They not only appreciate the ideals and mission of the organization, but they also appreciate lower costs and full control over their preferred choices in healthcare. Every one of them said they have never had a medical expense that has gone unmet. And, there was the extra blessing of receiving notes of encouragement and prayer from around the country.

I have tried to research this as much as possible, and I am not endorsing the organization without reservation. But, I do think it is an interesting concept. One must take time and diligently study to determine if this is the correct plan of action for his family. If you have questions, please refer to the Commonly Asked Questions page, or you may contact Samaritan Ministries at 1888-2OTHERS (1-888-268-4377) to receive references to others in your area who have had needs covered through the ministry.

When I read through the site, a few items piqued my curiosity and sent me back to my bible to study. Do you have any thoughts on this concept?


Elizabeth said...

I think the concept is really interesting. But at the same time, doesn't it fall to the church to support their members in times of need, and with such outrageous medical bills - it seems like it would be imprudent to do with out insurance (because of the burden on the church's resources)

That being said, about a month ago, before I found out that our insurance will cover me another year, I was ready to free wheel without insurance (my dad wouldn't go for it though).

I suppose this type of thing falls to the decision of the individual and what he/she feels most comfortable with.

James Lansberry said...

I totally agree with Elizabeth. Samaritan Ministries is an organized way of the Church doing just that. We're helping one another with medical bills month by month. It's not an insurance provision, but a community of believers stepping up to help one another.

I've been a part of Samaritan Ministries since 1996 and have been thankful often for the way that I can minister to others and when I have a need--them to us.

Dani said...

Thanks for this post by the way, I know a friend who is looking for something to do for the very reason that she is unmarried and would perfer to stay home and learn more to prepare to be a wife.