Some of the Little Things I Really Love about Samaritan

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Posted by admin | Posted in Samaritan Newsletters, Samaritan Perks | Posted on 13-04-2015

When you’re desperately looking for an affording, good alternative to expensive health insurance, initially I found that I was looking at the major things first. Things like cost, what it “covers”, what it doesn’t, are there good reviews, how long has it been around, are they stable, etc. Those are the obvious ones and they needed to check all the boxes for our family before I go any further.

However, there are some “little things” that I’ve noticed now that we’ve been a member of Samaritan for a while, things that really put that extra special touch on being a member. These are things that are nice to have, things that insurance really didn’t do for me and I just got used to it being that, and things that honestly now can make all the difference when you’re in the middle of having a need.

1. Samaritan staff are easy to get ahold of. When we had insurance I used to monitor my wait times on hold hoping a person would answer. My record was 50 minutes. Jeepers. Samaritan is nothing like that, after a quick menu a person answers almost immediately. My longest hold time so far was about 4 minutes and that was highly unusual. Normally they just answer right away. I don’t like to waste time, so it’s great that Samaritan is there for ME.

2. Samaritan staff pray with you. If you are calling about a need, at some point during that call they will actually pray on the phone with you. It’s amazing.

3. Along the lines of #2, Samaritan staff seem to genuinely care about you as a person. I did talk to some nice people at the insurance company, but I also got the run around with scripts and words to make it clear that just because I thought it was important, didn’t really mean it was. Samaritan gives me the exact opposite impression. They genuinely care about my concern, my need, my question.

4. I love the process of direct sharing. Of course I was used to sending my money direct to insurance, and then having insurance take my money straight from my account (which was admittedly foolish because canceling with them meant they took an extra month premium they should never have had access to, and then I waited 6 weeks to get it back). But I LOVE sending my monthly share direct to a family every month. There’s something so purposeful about it. I know my money is going to help a specific need. The unknown factor has always bothered me. What is my money really being used for? With Samaritan I know exactly. I know where it went, what it was for and I get to pray for that person and their healing. In the hustle and bustle of today I absolutely adore the simplicity of that.

5. There is no sharing for abortion. Ok, maybe it’s not fair to include that as a little thing because it’s really a big thing, but the issue gets lost in the fine print of a lot of insurance policies and as a result many people don’t even think to ask. Not every insurance policy covers that, but a lot do, and I don’t want to be a part of it. Samaritan makes it quite clear how they feel about that.

6. I love reading the monthly newsletter. There are interesting articles, letters from other members, a financial summary of the previous month, and member spotlights. I soak it in, can’t get enough.

7. It’s simple and easy. I have enough complicated things in my life. I don’t need another one to stress me out. Samaritan is the opposite of stress and complication. There’s a monthly newsletter, an address to send our share to, and a list of people to pray for. It grounds me and reminds me that my daily life is caught up in trivial matters, but my membership means I’m part of a community of Christians who have banded together to help each other. How amazing.

8. I love reading the list of Special Prayer Needs and sending extra for those. We have been sending our referral share reductions to these every month, and I love knowing we are helping heal a burden.

9. I love it when I read reviews and the member says that the cards they got were just as important as getting the money to pay their bills. That is really striking to me. The reason we joined was to make sure we’d be financially supported in the event of a need. The spiritual benefit was an extra. I’m just struck by how much that prayer support and personal touch means to those with a need and how it becomes equal to and even greater than the financial support. It’s no longer an extra benefit to them, it became a primary benefit. Many of them said it helps them heal and they can feel the prayers. God’s presence in this membership is humbling and powerful.

I’m sure there are more, but that’s just what I came up with off the top of my head as I sit here writing and thinking about Samaritan and what the membership means to me.

Why are we Falling for the Free Checkups?

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Posted by admin | Posted in ACA-Obamacare, Samaritan Perks | Posted on 10-04-2015

I’ve heard it touted for years that ACA insurance is so great because people can get free annual checkups now. Agreed, that’s a nice perk and it may help motivate some people visit a doctor, but it comes with a tradeoff and they’re certainly not “free”. The tradeoff for most is that their premiums are skyrocketing and their deductibles are monstrous. I’m trying to figure out why that “free” checkup is such a big draw when it ends up costing us so much in the long run.

Let’s say your annual checkup costs $200, which would honestly be pretty high, but I want to be fair. If you are a family of 4, that is $800/year if every member got a checkup.

Sounds like a high number, so ok, we should probably get insurance that will save us $800/year in checkup costs.

Except…

The insurance comes with a premium of $950/month. Wow, wasn’t expecting that. Well, maybe the deductible isn’t too bad because junior might break his leg and have an ER visit. Oh, it’s $5500? The family deductible is $11,000? Are you serious? So when exactly was the insurance company planning to pay for anything? Oh that’s right, they’re paying for my $800 in family checkups.

So we’re going to pay $11,400 a year in premiums to avoid paying $800. With that huge $5500 deductible it’s going to cost us another $5500 if our family has any kind of emergency, illness or injury, so NOBODY get sick or hurt. Seriously. Nobody. Let’s all walk on eggshells because we’re terrified someone will fall down or catch a disease. It’s no longer an inconvenience to get hurt, it’s a life changing financial nightmare to visit an emergency room and the premiums are breaking us. $11,400 + $5500 is $16,900 a year to avoid $800.  I’m starting to think there’s a BIG PROBLEM with this insurance system. I ask again, why are we falling for the free checkups?

WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?

1. One option is to have nothing. Pay that $800 for 4 annual checkups and have absolutely no safety net for anything else. Honestly, not a real option in my opinion. Why walk around with no safety net? Sure you’re saving the money, but you’re still walking on eggshells terrified of the next fall or sickness. Doesn’t seem like a good way to live. And now the government makes you pay a big fine of $325/pp for 2015 or 2% of your income. So add another $975/year (family max) to your costs at minimum, or lots more if your income is higher (2% of income). OUCH.

2. What about the healthcare sharing ministries? They’re not a new concept, they’ve been around for 30 years. Wow, that’s a long time. Do they work? Research and experience says yes. There are thousands of glowing reviews of how these ministries are helping. Great. Will they really help me and my family? What do they offer? Let’s look.

Samaritan Ministries is the biggest ministry and the one we joined.

  • No tax penalty to pay for the months I’m a member: CHECK. Awesome, there’s $975-$4000+ I won’t pay in fines.
  • Monthly cost? Samaritan’s family rate (3+ ppl) is $495 even if we have more kids. Wow, that saves me $455/month which is $5460 I won’t pay to insurance.
  • Deductible? Samaritan doesn’t call it that, is our personal responsibility amount and it’s only $300 for those trips to the ER or any other incident/illness we have. $300? Seriously? So I don’t have to live in fear of financial ruin if my kid breaks a leg? Wow, what a relief!  Wait a minute, you also tell me that if the hospital gives me a discount you will reduce my $300 amount? So you’re telling me that my kid could break his leg, and Samaritan members could actually share in all of those costs if I get $300 in discounts and I would pay pretty much nothing? Holy cow. I mean wow, that’s just amazing. Insurance would have made me pay that $5500 deductible first. $0-300 vs $5500…and members pray for me when I have a need? Pretty sure insurance doesn’t offer that.
  • Free checkups? Nope, Samaritan doesn’t offer that. So I would need to pay for those 4 $200 checkups on my own. $800 out of my pocket.

Samaritan total: $5940/year in monthly shares (think premium).  $800 for those 4 checkups. $300 if junior breaks his leg (with no discount). That adds up to $7040 per year. Wait, what was insurance going to be? $16,900? YIKES, that’s a difference of $9,860 per year!!! That means my free checkups with insurance fine print are costing me almost $10,000 more than paying for checkups on my own and having Samaritan backing for other things.

I’m starting to think insurance is just a big bait and switch.

Wait. There’s more than just the ER visits. What if I have a heart attack? Or get cancer? Those are huge bills, would Samaritan be there for me? Yes, Samaritan’s largest need to date was $1.5 million, and it was fully shared. The Samaritan member was part of Save to Share, the extra program available to pay for just that type of very expensive need. And there’s no need size limit for Save to Share and no lifetime limits. Looks to me like Samaritan members are prepared to be there for us for the smaller broken-leg type needs and the major expensive needs, too.

I think members of healthcare sharing ministries have it figured out. And I’m so glad we joined one! 🙂

Let’s review:

INSURANCE – $16,900/yr for premiums and an ER visit and I live in fear of actually meeting the deductible I can’t afford. But I get my free checkups!

SAMARITAN MEMBERSHIP – $7040/yr for monthly shares and an ER visit (includes those checkups I paid myself) but I don’t live in fear of medical bankruptcy and my bank account can breathe. Plus Samaritan offers help through Special Prayer Needs. They actively look for ways to help their members. And the prayers… those wonderful prayers.

NO INSURANCE, NO MEMBERSHIP – $800 checkups + $975 minimum fine (or more), and I live in fear of any illness or injury because we’re on the hook for the whole thing and it will likely bankrupt us.

 

ACA Special Enrollment runs through Apr 30

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Posted by admin | Posted in ACA-Obamacare | Posted on 08-04-2015

The ACA (Obamacare) has a special enrollment period that extends the ability for some people to signup through April 30, 2015. This special enrollment is for those who would otherwise pay a tax penalty if they didn’t get insurance yet or have some other qualifying exemption. It doesn’t seem to be widely popular, with 18,000 signing up in California so far and apparently only 36,000 countrywide (http://news.investors.com/politics-obamacare/040615-746512-is-obamacare-enrollment-starting-to-stall.htm). I haven’t seen much advertising for it, so I would bet a lot of people don’t know about it, and then there are thousands who still refuse to signup for financial or moral reasons.

On the other hand, health care sharing ministries don’t have an enrollment window to worry about, you can join one anytime during the year. And you still WON’T PAY the tax penalty for the months you are a member of a qualified ministry. (don’t worry, Samaritan Ministries is a qualifying ministry!! yay!!)

I’ve been reading that overall enrollment numbers for the ACA are far lower than the gov’t wanted. Lower income families have joined at a rate of 76%, but once you climb into higher income brackets of the middle class the take rate is far less even if they get some subsidies. Basically the plans available just don’t cover enough. Sure they may offer a printed list of things they say they will cover, but the deductibles are so high that the typical family ends up paying way too much out of pocket between deductibles and high premiums. Many of them have decided it’s not worth it and are looking for a better way.

Thousands of those people have chosen a health care sharing ministry because when they run the numbers they see that the ministry won’t leave them high and dry when they have a need. Members pay for their checkups, but the cost for those is far less than what they would have to pay if they had a medical need and an insurance plan with a huge deductible. And then throw in the sometimes huge variations between ministry monthly share costs and high insurance premiums. For us it was a savings of thousands of dollars per year to join Samaritan. I can easily pay for a checkup on my own (put a little in savings each month so the money is available when we need it). For that reason I don’t need help with small medical costs. I need help with big costs. Insurance offers to pay the small costs I can already manage and afford, but then sticks me with high bills if I have a bigger need. It’s completely illogical for our family. Samaritan is logical, supportive, and there for its members. Samaritan’s strength is its members and how we all share in each other’s needs each month, both financially and spiritually. Insurance can’t offer me that.