Samaritan Insurance: Health Insurance for Christians

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.


By , on Apr 6, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Sara:

    I was looking for info on Samaritan and found this post. I normally don’t comment on issues like this but I’m very disturbed at the comments I have read.

    The original poster mentions she doesn’t have money to purchase health insurance. And all the responses essentially consist of “Sorry you’re broke, but you’re really not so broke that you can’t get health insurance.” Yes, if a major health crisis happens Samaritan won’t help you. It is still better then nothing, and still, if you can’t afford it you can’t afford it.

    On the other side, there is the “300 dollars for most issues” as a “reasonable” amount. When you’re truly low-income, 300 dollars for me would be as much as coming up with 3000.

    And as someone who has either been uninsured or on low-income insurance most of my adult life; it is actually better to have no insurance and thus qualify for community health clinics, hospital based assistance, etc.- even in a catastrophe- then it is to have crummy insurance that you cannot afford to use. Most assistance programs (such as prescription assistance, for one example) will not help you if you have health insurance but can’t afford to use it (because the co-pays are too high, or the deductibles, for example).

    This is exactly why Obamacare passed, people. I swear most Americans really think that everyone could afford everything if they really wanted to. I’m not for Obamacare either, but I totally understand the thought behind it.

    • Jayne Wallace-Bohannon:

      Enough said. I have no insurance and no savings. I work a 40 hr. week job and my husband is self employed. His business is barely hanging on. We have an adult disabled daughter and I have not had insurance the last 15 years. I am self pay and our medical expenses are over $5000 a year. We make too much to qualify for ANY assistance.

      Question? Do I stop working and go on welfare or do I take away from my family and spend 25% of my income on health insurance?

      I recently went to the hospital to the ER. Spent 3 hrs. there and racked up a $10000.00 bill. The hospital is trying to work with me but the other costs (radioolgy, ER physicians etc) do not take “hardship” cases.

      There are no easy answers and no perfect plans out there.

  2. Jane:

    ……funny how we must insure ourselves in the event something bad should happen (which is nothing more than gambling), but it is looked down upon to gamble for something GOOD to happen. Even our own government makes it MANDATORY to gamble on having a car accident, but won’t allow the majority of people to gamble on something good like winning money! In my opinion, if one is bad, then so is the other (and, quite frankly, the ‘other’ is worse)!

  3. Bob:

    The Amish People pool their resources by sending money each month to their Bishop in Lancaster PA. They do not believe in Insurance yet they are actually self insuring by pooling their money cover medical costs when one of them becomes ill or injured.
    They have over 350,000 people and no one profits from the Amish pool of money.
    This program brings in over $5 million each month and someone’s getting paid. How about complete transparency? Account for every dollar being spent and let the 14000 members see where the money is truly going. If this idea is so good then show where every dollar is spent. Show all the costs of this program. Who is getting paid and how much is getting paid out that has nothing to do with medical bills. If this is so good lets start a program for emergency food and shelter and everything else we need. Or do we already have this? Give everything you own to the LORD and then ask in prayer to cover your needs. He’ll provide what you truly need.

  4. Neil Niemeyer:

    I recently retired and have Medicare and Supplemental insurance coverage. My wife is 4 years younger and we are looking int COBRA at a cost of $400 – $500/mo. MY wife had bypass surgery 4 years ago and the question is would she be eligible for coverage by Samaritan Ministries and if so what is the monthly cost as compared to COBRA which we can get for $400 – %500/month under the extended insurance program through my former employer

    Thank you for your response

    Neil Niemeyer

    • KimC:

      You can download their guidelines on the website but I suggest you call and talk to them (888-268-4377) – they’re very friendly and helpful.
      Based on my understanding, your wife could become a Samaritan member but needs related to her heart condition would not be covered.
      According to the Samaritan website, the cost for an individual is currently $120/month.

  5. KimC:

    We’ve been members of SMI for years, and love them! I’ve blogged about Samaritan several times.
    There are a few things to be aware of:
    *As you mentioned, preventative care is not included.
    *You are responsible for the first $300 of most needs – the reasoning is that you or your church or family should be able to provide for minor needs.
    *Needs over $100K are not covered unless you join a separate policy also offered by SMI. We do this – it’s very inexpensive.
    *Injuries from auto accidents are not covered, because you can add this coverage for very little from your auto insurance provider.
    *Needs are sometimes prorated when there are not enough funds to cover them all in a given month. If this happens 3 times in a row, the monthly share for each member goes up. This seems to happen every 2 or 3 years – the increases are far less than the increasing price of health care.

    Having said all this, we have had nothing but good experiences. They even waive the $300 deductible for a home birth with a midwife, which is our most common need. :)
    It’s not just an honor system. It’s a well-thought out and well managed plan. You really do get paid, and if somebody doesn’t send their share it’s reassigned the following month so you’ll get it from somebody else.

    Oh, and as another commentor mentioned: Yes, members of SMI are exempt from the new health care bill as it currently reads. We think this is wonderful news, even though we would qualify for free healthcare. I’d rather have SMI!

    They also have a referral bonus that can help a lot with somebody’s monthly share, so if you do join be sure to tell them who sent you. Obviously it wasn’t me – you already knew about them. But do give *somebody* credit!

  6. Joan:

    :…the care provider may not be able to estimate the charges and reject you.”
    Just want to dispel the fear here- You will not be rejected for medical care. They don’t need payment immediately. For example, we get billed for lab tests that my daughter needs done every so many months. They offer a 15% discount if we pay after the first billing. Believe me this is faster payment than most health insurances and more than they would get from medicare.

  7. Diana:

    Please be careful and really pray over this decision. As you know from your MIL’s illness (and your own parents), medical bills escalate quickly. A group funding is a scarey option (although the idea of Christians helping Christians is wonderful). If you, hubby, or children had an unexpected accident or illness, you could quickly become bankrupt.

    Insurance costs are completely out of line, but when faced with a medical crisis, it quickly becomes worth the price. Please also consider that you would likely have to jump through hoops when you don’t have insurance if there’s a medical issue that isn’t life-threatening but is serious. Even if you have cash on hand to pay, the care provider may not be able to estiamate the charges and reject you.

  8. This is a very interesting option. Insurance costs are ridiculous to say the least. I am curious what you decide to do. I think it would be risky and preventative care can be so expensive that it might not be worth it. Good luck with your decision.

  9. CW:

    Another thing I wanted to add about HSAs is that, if you find one that is high interest yielding, you won’t have to fund your regular savings account as much. For one, many mega-emergencies where you would need tons of money on hand will likey be health-related. And having more money in an HSA is going to be more advantageous because of the (much higher) interest rates. Instead of sending $300 each month to who knows where, put that $300 in an HSA that yields interest.

    • Mellomama:

      We currently have Self-Employed coverage w/ an HSA & high deductible through Kaiser… The problem is that they’ve continued to raise our premiums so high every year that we can no longer afford to make deposits into our HSA and the maintenance fee that is charged to keep the account is eating away at what little is left in there… So, we are also looking into Samaritan Ministries as an option for us. I’ve downloaded the Guidelines and am researching it… so far it sounds like a viable option for us. Would love to hear if anyone has had a negative personal experience with SMI … want to go in with both eyes wide open.

  10. Robert Johnson:

    I do not think this is a good idea. While it may sound good, in reality there are no free lunches. Having real medical insurance is something I would never be without.

    As you know my wife died earlier this year. Those 26 hours she spent in the hospital would have cost more than $70,000 had I not had insurance. But because I had real health insurance (and not what this other group is offering), it only cost $2,500.

    I would strongly caution you NOT to do this.

    • DavidW:

      While there is no free lunch, if you examine an insurance companies’ profit and loss statement you will see that an alarming amount goes to overhead and profit. SMI is very efficient, so you really do get more for less.

      FYI, that $70,000 visit would have only cost you $300 if you had SMI.

  11. Michelle H.:

    Hi Lynnae,
    We are self-employed so our insurance is pretty high too. However we recently switched to Blue Cross Blue Sheild – they have some reasonable plans. We pay around $275.00/mo for my husband and myself and we’re in our late 40’s. We each have a $5k deductible but found out last year when my husband was hospitalized with kidney stones that even though our bill was $14k –the insurance company somehow got the hospital to drop it to $3450. I’m not sure how all this works but you might want to check into it. It also has some prescription help after the first $200 spent.
    Hope you find something that’s affordable!

  12. CW:

    What kind of retirement savings do you have? My husband just recently opened up an HSA through our local bank to supplement his high-deductible insurance plan. To fund the HSA with the amount of our deductible, he actually rolled over a few thousand dollars from his 401k into a traditional IRA (no tax penalty), then rolled that into the HSA. It’s a good plan for us because we can’t afford to fund it out of pocket, and it’s a very high interest account. If you have any retirement accounts like that you could look into your options there. Gotta think outside the box!

    • Lynnae:

      Good thinking! That would certainly be an option.

  13. Mary:

    Does your state offer a low cost insurance for kids? We have not had insurance for a couple years because it became too expensive (would take half of my husband’s income each month). A sweet friend got me an enrollment form from our state’s “Healthwave” insurance. I was surprised that we qualified. The kids now have health insurance for $20 a month. It’s just an idea. Maybe then your insurance would be lower since it would only be covering your husband and you.

    • Lynnae:

      We’re over the income limit for that option. Plus, it’s hard to find a doctor who will take the state plan.

  14. Samaritan is a great choice, though not necessarily for everyone. Right now we’re sharing over $3M in medical bills every single month among over 14,000 families nationwide.

    RE: preventative care. We don’t share in preventive care because our members understand that we’re trying to balance personal and corporate responsibility. I can save and plan for preventative care (I personally have been a member for 14 years and I’m over 40 with 7 children) for my family, and adding it into the monthly costs only raises the costs by that amount for everyone. So you could have a plan like ours that did that but the monthly share would be so much higher that no one would be able to afford it. We’ve found that by paying cash for preventative measures we’re able to negotiate discounts and our monthly outlay is much less than it would be if we had insurance.

    Plus we get the joy each month of knowing our check goes to a brother or sister in Christ who needs it–not to a big corporate office somewhere, and we know that not one dollar ever goes to fund an abortion.

    This is a reliable method for thousands of families nationwide and may be a good option for you. Feel free to call our offices 888-268-4377 with any questions and we’ll give you the name of someone in your area who doesn’t work here who’s been a part of the ministry as a reference.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President
    Samaritan Ministries International

    • Rebecca Sparks:

      May I ask a somewhat impertinent question? Why Samaritans? The program seems to deal neither with the historical Samaritans, nor with the parable of going across borders to reach out to a group considered an anathema. Does it not more resemble one of the early churches, like acts 4:32-35?

      • Our founder did base it off both the parable of the Samaritan in Luke 10 and the passages of Galatians 6 and Phillipians 2. We are striving to be like the Acts 2 community in the area of health care, but think the local church is the ultimate place where that kind of community takes place.

      • Nathaniel Long:

        Samaritans works for its wide appeal and pre-existing “name recognition.” I am a seminary student, 2nd year, but I confess that I could not quote you Acts 2, unless I looked it up.

        Also, Jesus wanted to emphasize that God’s kingdom is for all who have the right heart, faith in him. So Jesus used the Samaritan in his story to show the ideal Christian behavior.

    • Kenneth:

      As a self-employee individual for the past 20 years, I have been struggling with insurance cost for my wife and me. Now, I am researching and praying if I can join a Christian healthcare ministries such as SMI.

      One concern I have about SMI is price negotiation capability with doctors or hospitals. Does SMI have network physicians hospitals that members are encouraged to choose? Will there be any discount offered to a SMI member?


    • Betty Jo Reddy:

      Hi: My girlfriend just recently mentioned this insurance plan/fellowship to me. I like many others am now facing the need to find private insurance. I would certainly like to receive the information packet from Samaritan Ministries Internationalj.
      Please E-mail me so I can give you my address as I don’t want to give it out in this e-mail. Thank You

  15. I’ve heard of Samaritan Ministries International before, I’ve never been involved and don’t know anyone personally who has but have heard of them through my church. I think it’s worth trying it, especially if it will help save money. I’m interested in learning more about it, if you choose that route let us know your feedback :)

  16. Lynn:

    I don’t use the Samaritan’s Ministries plan but read an organization blog of someone who does. Mandi from actually mentioned it about a month ago and I had never heard of it before. Maybe get in touch with her!

  17. Wanda: This is my pastor’s wife’s blog. She just recently had a dealing with this organization you are mentioning. I don’t know exactly what happened but it wasn’t good. She is like you a blogger, Christian and home schooling mom (of 5 with 1 on the way). I hope thar maybe if you had time you could contact her.I know what you are going through and pray that you find a solution.

    • Are you sure this bad experience was with Samaritan and not another health care sharing ministry that is similar?

      If so we’d love to talk to her–she can get directly to my office via jlansberry (at) smchcn (dot) net or call our toll free # and get extension 108 to talk to our director of membership development.

      James Lansberry
      Vice President
      Samaritan Ministries International

  18. Andrea:

    Just want to throw out to consider the “what if’s”… until 2 years ago we led fairly “healthy” lives as far as medical visits go… other than the occaision illness office visit and annual check ups… then life threw a curve at us and my youngest was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes… I can not imagine dealing with the financial stress of this chronic illness if we did not have insurance…

  19. trisha:

    I started an HSA and a high-deductible insurance for myself and our kids when it became too expensive to get insurance thru hubby’s work (and it had $1000 deductible). So far we really like it. Been on this for about 4 years. The money is in the HSA to cover out-of-pocket expenses. We really don’t get much benefit from insurance anyway (thankfully we just don’t have much medical expenses and they rarely pay for preventive care so that’s always been out-of-pocket anyways). The high deductible insurance is more less a safety net financially for us. I did add an accidental insurance for the whole family for $35 a month (w/$100 deductible). I work part-time self-employed. I am able to take my health insurance premiums off of what I make when it comes tax time, thus lowering how much I make, lowering tax rate—or something like that—our accountant figures that out for us. I understood it when it was explained, just can’t really remember the fine details now.

    • Sarah:

      Hi Trisha, If you don’t mind me asking, who do you go through for your HSA and high deductible? Would love the info! Thanks, Sarah

      • heidiann:

        I would also like info on the HSA and high deductible insurance you have.Thanks!

  20. Rebecca Sparks:

    Just to mention, the SMI guidelines mentions it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions at all. It doesn’t seem to disbar you from membership, it just stops those medical needs from being “publishable”.
    It actually has a lot of things it does not cover, including injuries from car crashes that are non work related (unless you participate in another program) or crashes from boats at all. When it does cover a need, it only covers the 1st 3 medical needs in a year (between 300-100,000) fully, all other needs will get 300 toward your need. If there’s not enough in the pool to cover all needs, you get a percentage of your need met.
    It seems awful risky; I would think that you would be better served putting the money you would have paid into this into some sort of health savings account.

    • Lynnae:

      A HSA is another option we’re considering, along with a catastrophic plan.

  21. Joan:

    First, no, it is not affiliated with Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Ministries. Second, it is not an insurance so it does not behave like one. It won’t qualify as insurance coverage under the new HCB. It is a group of like-minded people who take the admonition to care for each other needs seriously. Something Christians are called to do. It is there for catastrophic medical issues.
    My husband has been self-employed for most of our married lives. Except for a few years here and there when he worked for a company that provided insurance(thank God that was during my childbearing years),we have been self-pay. I prefer that term to uninsured. Like you we cannot afford medical insurance and we have a child with several medical issues. We took part in this ministry for a short time but never needed to submit any request.
    I do want to say that though we are “uninsured” we have not neglected our health care, we simply pay as we go. Many doctors offer discounts if you pay at your visit. When our daughter needed a wheelchair or other larger priced things, our Christian friends helped or we set up payment plans. God does provide, and it is often through His people.

    • Lynnae:

      That’s exactly how we feel, Joan. Just because preventive care isn’t covered, doesn’t mean we’d neglect it. We just realize that we’d have to pay for it ourselves. But, our kids are at an age where even insurance doesn’t pay for them to see the doc every year, and our insurance only pays for adults to see the doc for preventive care once every 4 years, so we’re not really giving up that much.

      And my understanding (and I’m not an authority) concerning the HCB is that people who belong to organizations such as this would be exempt from the insurance requirement.

      If insurance ever became affordable, we’d certainly go back. But when it eats up 1/3 of my husband’s paycheck and prevents us from paying for things like food or heat for our home, we need to look for an alternative. Samaritan’s Ministries isn’t perfect, but it’s better than not having any kind of coverage.

    • cwaltz:

      Since when is it Christian to put preconditions on who you will care for?(must be Christian;as if somehow non Christians don’t have medical needs either)

      Quite frankly, I’d use the term Christian quite loosely with any organization that puts preconditions on who they’ll accept. I certainly don’t remember Jesus being so choosy.

      It’s a health care co op. I’d be careful to get details and I’d heavily consider what preventative care sansinsurance is going to run you.


      I’m sorry to hear your family is struggling but like others I hope you research carefully before deciding to go this route.

      • Jane:

        cwaltz, perhaps you could try They ONLY help non-christians with health issues and even offer preventative medicine, so really what they have is a better deal, as it is completely free. So, why fight here to spend money when you can just get it free from them????

      • Mika Cagle:

        Oh grow up! What would you know at all about being a Christian? Do you even know at all what the term means or are you just some bitter church bashing person clinging to the memories of some “christian” who did you so wrong by not giving in to what you wanted when you wanted it?! For your info they do that because they will not pay for irresposible self destructive behavior from non-christians. People like you for example!

  22. Jessica:

    As a Christian and a medical professional, I would have concerns with this. While it certainly is better than going without health insurance, the point remains that preventative care is probably the number 1 thing you can do for yourself to reduce long-term medical costs and add years to your life. This would not be something I would consider compromising on.

  23. Susan:

    Isn’t Samaritan Ministries the Franklin Graham organization?

    I would feel comfortable with his group. They help people with medical needs all over the world.

    I would ask about colonoscopy and mammagrams. i had a preventive colonocopy recently and they caught an early stage pre-cancerous large polyp. They told me that I was very lucky that it was discovered then.

    My only other concern is privacy. If other people know exactly what’s wrong with you then there is the potential in possible employers etc find out. For example, my son has asthma diagnosed by physicia. The doctor suggested that we not have the asthma tests in the hospital because they would appear in his medical records.

    • Cheryl:

      You’re thinking of Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan Ministries is a different organization. They’re only located in Colorado.

  24. I’m not so sure about it. It sounds like an alternative if you are desperate. But.
    My family has been uninsured for 2 years. My hubby lost his job in Feb of 08 and that was the end of insurance for us.
    He has a job now but its for a small I.T. company that isn’t able to offer health benefits.
    It’s been a huge stress worrying about anything major happening to one of us (a family of 5….3 teens and 2 40 something parents).
    I pray….cause that’s all I got right now….NOTHING HAPPENS!

    I will say this……I’m not a supporter of the new health care system! I’d rather take my chances without insurance than have Obamacare! :(

  25. This has ‘bad idea’ written all over it to me. I work at my state’s health department and am a master’s level epidemiologist.

    You NEED preventive care. Colonoscopy. Mammogram. Pap smear. Bone density screening. Those will cost you anywhere from $500-$2500 out of pocket yet can catch cancer and other conditions before they become too far along to treat.

    If you haven’t been to the gyn in more than three years, SHAME ON YOU!

    I speak from experience on all this. My sister was severely premature at birth and spent 7 1/2 months in NICU/ICU. My parents are currently unemployed and without health insurance and also have preexisting conditions, and when they had insurance it was terrible. They paid out of pocket for preventive care and didn’t have dental or vision insurance either.

    And I’m sorry– prayer can work wonders– but it cannot pay bills.

    As for this company- I’d need to know a LOT more. Who makes determinations? What are their qualifications? Appeals process? How fast do you get a decision? Do they pay or do you pay then try to get reimbursed? Are they licensed in your state?

    Remember that if your medical expenses are >7% of your AGI they can be deducted on your tax returns.

    • DJ:

      I am sorry, too, that your response doesn’t include the fact that even health insurance now does not cover preventative. I went from a very good health insurance policy for 28 years, to a state legislated change that includes no prevention, very limited care for seniors and only primary care physicians. Having a condition that is beyond the reach of a primary care physician, I have had to pay several thousand out of pocket for three years now with no reimbursement. This new health ins of mine also only covers generic brands of medicine and since I have numerous allergies, serious enough to cause work loss, I cannot take many generics. The problem with them is the fillers and dyes they use that they don’t have to provide on their labels. You only find out by googling. Obama care has been a big flop, I can see clearly now we need privatized and competing health care systems. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the one my legislators have selected and it has brought about all these changes to a once excellent major medical comprehensive health care plan.

    • Mika Cagle:

      Sounds SOOO important one would swear you must be selling it or at least in some way making your living off of it as if noone in the human race could ever possible get by without it. Oh Yea, that’s right YOU ARE!

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