Recently my husband and I have been evaluating all our bills to try to cut back. Like so many other people, the economy has taken it’s toll on our finances, and we’re looking for ways to make our money stretch further.
The most recent area of our finances to come under fire is what we pay for health insurance. It’s getting time for my husband’s employer to renew insurance, and that usually means a raise in rates. Because he works for a small company, our insurance rates are through the roof. Last year the employees elected to forego prescription coverage, to keep the costs from going up a lot.* But as it is, insurance costs eat up about 1/3 of my husband’s paycheck. It’s not the fault of his employer at all, but it’s not working out so well for us.
Looking for Alternatives
Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of alternatives for us. We’ve tried to buy our own policy before, but because of pre-existing conditions, we can’t get coverage. And since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have an employer to turn to for insurance. And since I only freelance part time, I can’t qualify for self-employment insurance pools, like the ones available through Costco.
A Possible Solution: Samaritan Ministries International
One of the options we’re considering is Samaritan Ministries International. It’s not insurance. Rather, it’s a group of Christians who share medical expenses.
Basically, you pay a certain share per month. In our case, it would be under $300, which is less than half of what we pay now. Each month we would send that money to a family who has submitted medical expenses that need reimbursement. If we had a medical need, we’d submit our bill for reimbursement, and other families would send us money.
The $300 or so would only cover us up to $100,000, which isn’t much. So we’d probably opt to pay $400 more per year to be covered up to $1 million. Still, that comes out to less than $350 a month, still a big savings from what we’re paying now.
To become a member of Samaritan Ministries International, you have to be a Christian and be willing to live by some guidelines that are generally accepted by Christians (attend church regularly, don’t abuse drugs, etc.). None of the requirements would be a problem for our family.
Pre-existing conditions may not be covered, but again, this is not a problem for our family. The pre-existing conditions that prevented us from getting our own insurance coverage aren’t things that require any follow up care.
How Samaritan Ministries International Works
When you have a medical need, you contact Samaritan Ministries International. They send a packet out to you, so you can fill out the forms and submit your expenses. They also begin praying for you.
After you submit your expenses, they are processed and your need is published in the monthly newsletter, so others can pray for you. Specific members will be assigned your need and will send their monthly share to you, so you can pay your bills. There is a system of checks and balances, so if someone doesn’t send the money or a check bounces, another person will be assigned to send you the money to meet your need.
The Pros and Cons
As with anything, there are pros and cons to this insurance alternative.
- It’s much less expensive than what we’re paying now.
- It’s better than going without insurance.
- I like the idea of people working together to take care of medical needs. No insurance. No government. People helping people.
- I also like the idea of a community of people praying for us when we’re sick.
- Dealing with reimbursement, rather than direct payment from the insurance company could be difficult.
- Expenses under $300 aren’t covered; neither is preventive care.
What Will We Do?
The short answer is I don’t know. I’m definitely going to look into this further. We can’t afford our insurance now, and we’re expecting it to go up again. Our insurance right now isn’t great. We are covered for preventive care and have $20 copays for our regular doctor and $40 copays for specialists. But we have no dental or prescription coverage, and we really don’t go to the doctor frequently. I just called to get my daughter in for her 12 year vaccination boosters, and other than one bout of bronchitis, a flu shot, and a chicken pox booster, she hasn’t been seen since 2007. I don’t think any of us have.
This is a really tempting option for us. I’m going to have to think about it further. I’ll keep you posted on what we decide.
In the meanwhile, has anyone had any experience with Samaritan Ministries International? Care to share? What would you do in my shoes, knowing you could save $400 a month with this option?
*My husband works for a great company, and I want to make clear that I don’t blame them at all for our insurance situation. They really do the best they can. This is just the nature of the medical care/health insurance beast.