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How We Save Money on Health Care Costs

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How to save money on health care costs

Guest post from Joy @ Five J’s

Six years ago my husband and I had health insurance coverage through his work. But when the premiums started to rise, we realized we had to do something to save money because we were already struggling to stretch our dollars from week to week.

It was about this time I happened upon this post by Shaun Groves. Shaun’s son came down with a sudden illness that resulted in an enormous medical bill, and even though their family didn’t have insurance, their out-of-pocket costs for the entire bill was just $12! Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Shaun explained that they were members of a Christian health care sharing ministry called Samaritan. Samaritan isn’t insurance; instead a group of Christians share medical needs they have that exceed $300, and the members pay each others’ bills.

It sounded almost too good to be true, so I did a little investigating and talked to some current Samaritan members to find out whether it was a viable option for us. We determined it was, so in 2007 we cancelled our $500+/month insurance policy with a $3000 deductible and became members of Samaritan.

How Health Care Sharing with Samaritan Works

Samaritan Ministries, a Biblical non-insurance approach to health care needsEach month Samaritan sends us the name and address of another Samaritan member and a summary of their medical need. We then write a check for our monthly share of $370, include a personal note, and send the money directly to the other member. This $370 ‘share’ is basically our monthly premium.

Concerning our own medical costs, we pay out of pocket for things like preventative visits, one-time doctor sick visits, and our ongoing prescriptions. But several times our medical bills for an illness or injury have exceeded the $300 threshold, so we submitted those needs to Samaritan members and the bills were paid directly by the membership.

One of these needs was an $80,000 hospital bill from when my daughter shattered her femur and had to undergo two surgeries and spent a total of seven days in the hospital. Samaritan negotiated discounts from several of the providers, saving thousands of dollars, and once we received all the checks from the Samaritan members, our out-of-pocket cost was less than $200. We paid for only her wheelchair rental and the purchase of a walker, definitely thousands of dollars less than if we still had regular medical insurance.

As I just mentioned, Samaritan is not insurance. But even with the changes to the health insurance industry under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), we are not worried. Members of recognized health sharing ministries like Samaritan are exempt from the individual mandate penalty, so even though we don’t technically have insurance, we aren’t subject to the penalty.

How We Save Money on Prescriptions

GoodRX, a discount prescription optionNot only do we save money on health care costs each month by being members of Samaritan, we’ve also discovered how to save money on prescriptions with GoodRX.com.

Since we have to pay for most of our prescriptions (Samaritan does cover some prescriptions following an illness or injury, but we still have to pay for some), we try to find the lowest cost for prescriptions.

GoodRX is a free website (as well as a mobile app) that allows me to look up both the cash-pay and GoodRX discount price for prescriptions in my area. It has allowed us to save quite a bit of money on our prescriptions, almost as if we had regular prescription coverage.

For example, I recently had to refill two medications for my daughter, and if I’d simply gone to Target as usual, I would have paid more than $60 for the two. But I logged on to GoodRX before requesting the refill and discovered I’d save quite a bit of money if I transferred the prescription to Wal-mart, which I did. I ended up paying just $20 for the prescriptions, and all it took was a little research on GoodRX.com.

Will This Work for You?

Being a member of Samaritan and going without typical health insurance coverage is definitely not for everyone, but it has been such a blessing for our family. So if you’re looking for ways to save money on your health care costs, you might want to investigate health care sharing ministries like Samaritan and discount prescription programs like GoodRX.com to see if they are a good fit for your own situation.


Psst! Looking for other health sharing ministries like Samaritan? You might also want to check out a similar company called Medi-Share to compare your options and figure out what works best for your family!

Five J'sJoy Miller works from home with her husband, Jeff, doing book, graphic, and web design through their business Five J’s Design. She also runs a homeschooling website called Five J’sIn 2012, after being in debt for 18 years, Jeff and Joy became debt free (except for their house) and have recently begun a financial coaching business to help others discover financial freedom. Jeff & Joy live in Texas where they homeschool their three children, Jaden, Jerah, and Joely.


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100 Comments

  • Cynthia M. says:

    I have heard of this before, but have always been too afraid to try it. The insurance I have now(cobra) runs out Jan1st and am curious for more information on how this plan is exempt from the insurance mandate penalty if you don’t have insurance.

    • BetsyD says:

      Me too…..how is this exempt?

      • Heather says:

        Here’s what I found on Consumer Reports:

        Come 2014, when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act kick in, those considering a cost-sharing ministry will have a somewhat different insurance landscape to survey. Membership in a health-care sharing ministry in operation since 1999 (i.e. any of the big three mentioned above) will exempt individuals from the law’s controversial mandate to purchase health insurance. On the other hand, insurers—unlike the ministries—will no longer be able to cap lifetime expenditures or limit coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And most low-income people will be eligible for new subsidies to help them buy real insurance.

      • Meghan says:

        It’s written into the Affordable Care Act, which is the law. There is an exemption for these health cost sharing programs. But be aware that these programs will not cover all medical procedures, particularly ones that are incompatible with Christian teachings. This may be fine with you, but it’s something to know and research before you join.

        • Sarah in Alaska says:

          Just a clarification, a provision for exemptions was in the law but did not detail which people would be exempt from the law until the final regulation was released by the IRS and Treasury in August 2013. It’s in the regulation – not the law.

          The exemptions include: members of certain religious sects and divisions, members of health care sharing ministries, incarcerated individuals, people not filing a tax return, households below a certain financial level and other hardship situations, Native Americans/Alaska Natives, persons with gaps in coverage of less than 90 days. You can read the final regulation here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-08-30/pdf/2013-21157.pdf

      • Liz says:

        The Affordable Care Act put in exemptions for these kinds of sharing groups because folks like 7th Day Adventist often share costs. The point of ACA was to get everyone covered, so they consider medical sharing plans coverage.

      • Elizabeth Horton says:

        We have been Samaritan members for 2 years and have been very pleased. My husband hand to have an ER visit and a stress test and we actually came out like $25 ahead and when I called them they just said to keep it or pass it along to someone else. It is totally legit that you don’t have to pay the fine. They tell you exactly forms to file with your taxes. We had no issues. You do have to be sponsored through a church you regularly attend and do a bunch of paperwork, but it is totally worth it in my opinion. Honestly BCBS and the healthcare marketplace where both so horrible to deal work I gladly welcomed doing the paperwork and bills myself. It was way less stressful than spending hours on end trying to resolve any number of things that the government and BCBS screwed up. Not to mention soooo much cheaper for is even though we have to pay for check ups out of pocket. Samaritain is so helpful and the one time I did have an issue with a form they wanted the doctor to sign and they ended up waiving it and being so so nice. Call them with any questions you have and they will be happy to answer them. Also if you know any friends that have Samaritain make sure to use they name as a referrer because they will get a credit on part of a months share.

    • Heather says:

      We joined Samaritan Ministries in February. It has been so wonderful blessing others every month rather than a company that supports things I feel are morally wrong. It was also frustrating when you pay so much a month for insurance yet every time you end up in the clinic your insurance doesn’t cover. What’s the point then? We save at least $1,000 a year, probably more now that premiums went up again, and bless someone who needs it. You feel like your part of a community. I’m not sure why it is exempt but they have almost monthly updates on the law and have lawyers making sure that we are following the law as it is now going into affect.

  • Guest says:

    So when you receive checks, do you report it as income? Where’s the accountability? — Who’s to say that you’re actually going to receive the checks when you need them? Do Samaritan members pay for things that some Christians don’t believe in- like blood transfusions, IVF, care for STIs, late-stage HIV care, etc? Can you give an actual cost comparison to show that you’ve saved money, including what you’ve paid for that isn’t covered by Samaritan, plus your monthly “share”, compared to your previous monthly insurance premium? If I had to pay out of pocket for every preventive care visit (I have three kids), plus the full office visit cost for sick visits, plus all the lab tests, etc, just routine care would do me in, but my insurance pays for all of that.

    Also what about your privacy? How do you feel about all the other Samaritan members knowing about your medical problems? With regular insurance coverage, me, my doctor, and my insurance representative are the ones who know the details of my medical care.

    • Meagan says:

      I clicked over to Samaritan’s site, and many of your questions are answered in their FAQ’s. I’d never heard of this type of ministry and I am very impressed with how well thought out the program is. It’s definitely not ideal for everyone, but I love how this is organizing a Christian community to help each other in times of need.
      In terms of privacy, publishing a member’s medical needs is no different than sharing a health-related prayer request at church, Bible study, or through Facebook.

      • Guest says:

        I couldn’t find anything about whether the checks a person receives are income. That $80k the blogger received could be taxable by the IRS!

        • Christine says:

          If I’m not mistaken, the monies sent would be a gift, and not taxable by IRS regulations. Our pastor had quad bypass several years ago; he was blessed with additional funds and the ministry said to forward the extra to others in need. This ministry has been around for many years. Members must sign a statement of faith…

          I would HIGHLY recommend calling Samaritans if you have questions instead of relying on 2nd hand information (mine included). They are ready to answer all your questions. We wanted to make the switch a couple of years ago and praying to get over to them before the end of they year. I’ve had some health issues to get past before we can do so because they have an exemption for pre- existing conditions.

          As far as privacy, if you think your medical records are private, you should really explore what HIPPA considers “privacy.” It should be known as the NON privacy act!

        • Elizabeth H. says:

          No they are not taxable. If is considered a gift and each person is sending a small portion of the bill. Obviously if one person gave you $80K that would be an issue, but that is not how it works. Samaritain has been around for like 20 years they are just gaining new popularity now since the whole Obamacare fiasco.

    • Heather says:

      Check out their website and you’ll find the answers your looking for. I have a prayer list of people with needs and who we are sending checks to every month. The point to be a community of believers praying and caring for each other. I do know what is wrong but that is so I can pray for specific healing.
      As far as what they cover, if it is something that is typically an issue that most Christians feel is immoral it is not shared.

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      Based on what both Samaritan and my CPA have told me, the shares that are sent are considered gifts according to the IRS, so no, it’s not reportable as income. We didn’t receive one lump sum to reimburse us for my daughter’s bills. Instead, we received a combination of dozens of smaller amounts. All shares are voluntarily given by members of Samaritan.

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      Also RE: privacy, members can write the description of the ‘need’ however they want. So I’d imagine you can just phrase the need however you’d like to maintain your privacy. Since you do need to send in your bills to Samaritan, that information would be in their records, but it’s not shared with the membership as a whole or with the individuals who are sending you your checks except how you’d like it to.

    • mary says:

      I can’t tell you how much I disagree with this idea. My sister was hit by a car while riding her bike. She had a very severe TBI. They had Samaritain Ministry. While she was still in an induced coma the hospital wanted to know about insurance. When my brother in law told them about his involvement in this group they tried to contact SM. SM told the hospital that they do not deal with hospitals and that after they knew the final bill then people would send their checks to my sisters family. The problem is the hospital did not like this at all and said that my sister would need intensive therepy right away if she was going to recover well. The hospital said they would keep her until she was stable but would not keep her for therapy. Welllong story short six months later the hospital is still hounding for money. Because the doctors say she needs continued treatment there is no final total dollar amount. There is still no help from SM. My sister with the TBI gives them the ok to take funds from their account my BIL has no idea why they have a zero balance in their account. He finally agrees to a setelment with the car insurance company and then talked the hospital into dropping the bill to that amount. And SM still did nothing for their family. I have no respect for this company and I think it is a very poor testimony to hospitals out there.

      didn’t even know if my sister would live my BIL had no time to even spend any time with his wife Bc SM said to apply for state Medicare so they would pay bills first plus he was trying to get the insurance from the car that hit her. Long story short since they put in an allocation for medicaid

      • Heather says:

        I’m so sorry you’ve had a bad experience…we’ve been with them for over 3 years, had an emergency c-section and NICU stay and had none of these kinds of issues. We told the hospital we were cash patients, got the bills, submitted them and paid for our care without any issues. In the end, this very expensive birth cost us nothing…much cheaper than the two ‘normal’ births that we had with insurance.

        I hope she continues to recover and gets the help she needs!

      • HeatherP says:

        I am so sorry to hear of their frustrations and your sister’s injury. As a rule Samaritan does not encourage people to go on Medicaid, (in fact they discourage it), but I read that at least one other sharing ministry does (I think there are 3 main ministries out there). Samaritan also will publish needs in cases such as this even if someone else’s insurance eventually pays it, we just have to send on the corresponding medical settlement money to other members with needs when that time comes. Samaritan doesn’t want members or providers to be left hanging while insurance company lawyers fight. It sounds like that hospital was pushy and mean had some bad communication issues which added to the scary medical stress. I sincerely hope your sister is recovering and doing well.

        We have not submitted a need to Samaritan ourselves, but some friends of ours had 3 babies and an expensive accident (5 figure hosp bill) fully paid 100% through their Samaritan membership.

    • Elizabeth H. says:

      There is complete accountability with the money (we are members). If you have a need (i.e. Claim) you receive a list of who is supposed to send you money and how much. You have to report back to them on a certain date if you received the money and provide the check numbers etc. It is completely accountable. You do not have to report the money as income and the money you send to others is not tax deductible. You have to send them copies of all your bills (just like an insurer would receive copies of your bills). The description of what is put out as the medical need could be vague if needed. It is not for everyone. You have to be regular attenders of a church and have a pastor or elder sign off. You have to sign a code of conduct (which is compatible with our values and actions but not everyone) which includes no premarital/extramarital sex, no drugs, no smoking (I think) and no drinking in excess (but it does not prohibit it). They also do NOT cover preexisting conditions.

  • I love the idea behind these cost-sharing organizations (absolutely Biblical), but it’s a no-go for our family because they don’t cover our very necessary (and expensive) ADD meds.

    This is an excellent option for a single, couple, or family who are generally healthy and have no chronic conditions, but the out-of-pocket expenses climb if you join while having a chronic condition (e.g., diabetes, mental health issues, cholesterol or blood pressure issues). Absolutely read the fine print before dumping your current coverage.

    It’s an awesome idea – it really and truly is – but it’s not for everyone.

  • Chelsea says:

    If I may ask- what do you do for dental and vision? Our dental expenses have more than paid for our monthly bills/co-pays this year, and I see that’s not something they offer. So does your family just pay for that out of pocket? Thanks!

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      We don’t have vision insurance. We’ve never seen the need, even when we had regular coverage. We simply pay for exams as needed and then purchase our eyeglasses online through Zenni Optical. I’ve done the figuring before, and it wouldn’t really save us any money if we had vision insurance.

      As for dental insurance, we had coverage up until this summer when my husband retired from full-time ministry, so we currently have no dental coverage. I do get discounts from my dentist (she’s a friend of ours and I’ve also done some design work for her), so for now we’re doing okay. I am currently looking for dental insurance options, though, as my son needs his wisdom teeth out. I’m going to be calculating, however, whether it’s better to pay out of pocket or to get the insurance.

    • Elizabeth H. says:

      Yah you just pay that out of pocket, but we never had dental of vision coverage before either so it is no different for us. Purchasing your own private insurance for those is not cost effective in my research. Samaritain is not for everyone! If you have a lower income you might very well me better off with the government marketplace (expense wise that is…..mental health wise dealing with all that good luck cause I’ve done it and the incompetence boggles the mind) or State covered healthy kids programs for you kids, but if you make a decent income and don’t have precasting conditions it starts to become much much cheaper. It is just another option to research for whatever you situation is and maybe it would be awesome for you or maybe horrible.

  • sheryl says:

    We have been members for around 7 years and have submitted 5 needs. It has always been a blessing! We pay $370 a month and it a check that we love sending to other believers that have a need. I’m so thrilled to see Money Saving Mom do an article on this.
    Also, check out the Morning Center, a ministry connected with Samaritan Ministries.
    http://morningcenter.org/ It’s a beautiful ministry.

  • Julie says:

    We are in a similar program called Medi-Share. It works a bit differently though. Instead of paying our monthly share (like an insurance premium) directly to the recipient, we pay it to Medi-Share and they disperse our money to other members according to their needs. We have an annual household portion (like a deductible) of $2500. Once we meet that, our expenses are shared among the members. Until then we pay out-of-pocket. However, we are a part of PHCS (private health care system) so we have a card to present to the providers and we receive a discount, anywhere from 30%-70%! Our monthly share is $330. We don’t go to the doctor a lot for regular check-ups and such so this plan works perfectly for our family.

    Medi-Share also gives a health incentive if you meet certain health criteria. This has saved us $75 each month!

    • Bobbie says:

      regular check ups don’t count towards the deductible though right?

      • Tami says:

        No, they don’t. We have this as well as my husband works for a company of under 50 employees and it was the only affordable coverage we could get that covers maternity as well. There is also a $35 office visit fee that the doctors can (don’t have to, but can) charge you that is also not included towards your annual household portion. Compared to what we were paying before, though, we are still saving money every month!

    • Linda says:

      Thanks for sharing that info!

  • A. Heishman says:

    So excited to read your article on this! My husband left the navy after 9 years and started his own business. We have been without medical insurance for about a year, and God has been faithful to take care of us. However, we do want to have more children, and we have been prayerfully considering this option to getting insurance. It’s so encouraging to hear about your good experience with it!

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      Samaritan is definitely a FABULOUS option for self-employed people!

    • Heather says:

      My husband is self-employed and SM is the reason we are able to have me home full time with our kids. It is has been a major blessing to our family, especially through a scary emergency c-section/NICU stay!

  • Bobbie says:

    After thoroughly perusing their FAQ pages, I would google both Samaritans and Medi-share for consumer reviews. Its pretty enlightening and gives insight into what it might look like if you do need to use it. (Need to ask healthcare providers for lower rates, wait for repayments, etc., also you have to belong to a church and in one of them (Medi-share) you had to go to benevolence committee at church for help first….at least thats the way I think I read it). For us I was already pregnant so it wouldn’t cover my pregnancy expenses, and we were paying for all our physicals – we just couldn’t justify spending over $300 a month just in case something serious might happen :/ We also had just moved to a new area and hadn’t found a local church yet – so I doubt we would have met qualifications to get our bills paid. We have something similar to the ACA in our state which was more helpful. But I like the idea and principles of Christians sharing medical expenses and I like the idea of knowing my money isn’t being used for things I don’t believe in… (BTW we have a family of 7 and get annual physicals (not “covered” in these programs)…so that was all part of our calculations too). 🙂

    • Guest says:

      The not covering things that one person doesn’t believe in is sketchy… what about a former smoker, who then gets lung cancer? Or the former alcoholic who gets liver cancer? Or the former drug user who has hepatitis C? Would they be covered? I don’t believe in overeating, smoking, alcohol use, drug use, and I’m very much for family planning and daily exercise. So I might feel put off covering the costs for someone’s tenth child or their knee replacement due to morbid obesity. I’m sure every person has their own similar feelings.

      • Tami says:

        On Medi-Share’s website, they have a list of medical conditions that they do not cover that has been voted on by the members. It is not up to each individual member but rather something that you have to acknowledge before you sign up for the coverage.

        • Elizabeth H. says:

          Exactly! They aren’t going to spring anything on members. They agree to this when they sign up. If you are a former fill in the blank then ask them ahead of time if you had future illness related to past behavior would it be covered? Ask them all your questions ahead of time and make your decision based on the answers. Members are members because it is best or cheapest option for them and they want to be. No one is forced to join….

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you for shining some light on this. I, too, have been curious about such programs but didn’t “know” anyone who had actually used them. (Not that I “know” you or Shaun, but kinda feel like I do!) Anyway, I had read the FAQs on their website but like how you presented it from a users standpoint.
    As for prescriptions, which was mentioned by many, we use a Canadian pharmacy for our on-going medications (asthma) but will be looking into the GoodRx.com for those one-timers.

  • Karen says:

    I was so excited to see this post. We used to have “great” health insurance, you know the kind where you pay pretty much nothing out of pocket and our employers paid most if not all of the monthly costs. We were very blessed.
    Then my husband became a pastor and we were terrified at the prices we were being quoted for health insurance and none of those covered maternity.
    We joined Samaritan and have seen that it is wonderful. This is not a gimmic. But you do have to look at healthcare differently if you choose this route. We had one baby on regular health insurance and now we had our second while on Samaritan. The actual cost would have been around $12000 this time (trust me I know, I have spreadsheets where I kept meticulous records) but through Samaritan we only paid the initial $300 (actually it was less than that because we negotiated so many of our own discounts but I can’t remember the exact number). The wonderful part was all the cards from people who were praying for us.
    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but in case it hasn’t been mentioned – yes, this is a legal exemption from the new healthcare laws. Feel free to contact me if you are unsure or just have a question you want answered from a person who has really been using Samaritan. We tell everyone we can because we believe it is a wonderful program for Christians to share the burden of healthcare costs.

  • Bev says:

    I wonder how this works for those having a baby? Would we have to pay for our ultrasounds, it could get costly with all the visits too.

    • Bev says:

      Found the answer to my question in the FAQ’s – if you are pregnant when you join, you are limited in what will be covered. I’m assuming you have to pay for all your maternity visits though.

      “For a pregnancy that begins after the start of your membership, maternity needs are shared like any other need. For a pregnancy that began prior to your membership, the amount published is generally limited to the amount of shares you have sent from the beginning of the mother’s membership. See Section IX for more details.”

      • Bev says:

        Are these for natural births? I have to have c-sections and I tend to have a lot of complications in pregnancy. The last one this past year, was over $70,000 for the maternity and c-section. I also have a baby that has had a lot of urgent-care visits. I’m not seeing how we could pay the $300 something a month and then all these visits too. Right now we pay one cost a month and then only $30 each time we go to the doctor but all the checkups are no-copay. Then, we only paid $6,000 of the $70,000 cost of my maternity/c-section thanks to insurance and my husband’s job paying half of our premiums.

        It would be interesting to hear from someone that uses this with a c-section and lots of health issues in the family.

        • Heather says:

          I had an emergency c-section and an NICU stay for our last baby. We had planned a birth center birth and had already shared the cost of our midwife and our birthcenter…that money had been paid before the baby was even born. Then we added a whole lot of expense! And those were all shared as well. If you plan a homebirth than the $300 is waived, but in your case you would pay the first $300 and the rest would be shared. Yes, amazing. Yes, true. Anything related to your need (pregnancy and birth) would be considered part of that need. I’m happy to answer questions if you have any. fuerniss at hotmail dot com

        • James says:

          My wife had an emergency C-section and our newborn son was in the NICU for 11 days and we had over $200,000 in bills and the entire need was shared. (We were able to get about $50,000 in discounts though).

          I have chronic asthma personally and the medication isn’t shared, but even if you add the relatively expensive prescription (about $250/month) to my monthly share it’s still a ton less than we could get insurance for if we wanted.

          We loved having all the cards and checks come for our need…we got notes (and all those people were praying for us!) from 42 different states in that big need. It was an amazing blessing.

    • Tami says:

      We have Medi-Share, and got it for the purpose of maternity coverage primarily. How it worked for us, was that we payed for the first $3,750 (our chosen annual household portion) of discounted medical bills for our year coverage (it is not an annual amount, but a year from the date that you signed up for the coverage). This includes any ultrasounds, doctor visits (after the $35 visit fee), lab work, etc. They then pay 100% of the bills. It does not include any preventative care, but does include any medical bills that you pay during those 12 months. I believe that there is a maximum amount that they will pay out, but we never reached that amount. If your bills exceed the maximum, they can then be published for voluntary sharing by other members. There have been several times that they have e-mailed saying that all of the extra needs have been met for the month. You do have to be a member for one full month before you get pregnant or it will count as a pre-existing condition, and it takes about a month to get all of the information filled out (first daughter wasn’t sharable as we found out we were expecting while going through the approval process!). Hope this helps!

    • Sarah says:

      Bev, for maternity the clinic that I go to has one fee they charge for all prenatal care, including the ultrasound and other testing. My friend who had her most recent baby while on Samaritans got those numbers and submitted them as part of her maternity need. If you go to a clinic where you go somewhere else for the ultrasound, you would just get that bill and include it with your other bills in a maternity need.

    • Elizabeth H. says:

      I was done having kids when rejoined Samaritan, but I have a friend that has had 2 babies on if and as long a pregnancy started after membership that is covered. Doctors usually bill for all prenatal check-ups work delivery ask they are covered. Ultrasounds are covered also. You start one need for the pregnancy and then do add on forms as needed, but just ask them did any clarification to how it works. I called them up with a no list of questions before we joined and they are so helpful.

  • Marcy says:

    We are members of Christian Healthcare Ministries and they are a great cost sharing group also. http://www.chministries.org/ In conjunction with this I am planning to join a concierge doctor service. It looks to me that there will be better doctor availability and significantly reduced costs.

    • Patty Collins says:

      How will this work under Obamacare since you are required to pay the penalty if you do not use their insurance?

      • Sarah says:

        As mentioned above participating in any of the big three healthcare sharing ministires provides an exemption from the insurance mandate.

  • Sarah says:

    I wanted to add, it is great to call and talk to a Christian when you are dealing with the stress of some medical crisis. After my recent miscarriage, I called to tell Samaritan that I wouldn’t be submitting a maternity need after all since the miscarriage care was under $300. The man I spoke with treated me with compassion and prayed for me before I hung up. It was so sweet to have a kind voice on the other end of the phone in the face of the stress I was already feeling.

  • Kemi Quinn says:

    The Rx info was good. Thank you for that. I’ve been looking at the Christian ministries as options for other family members. Good ideas.

  • Anna says:

    My daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few weeks ago. Before the diagnosis, she was a normal teenager with no health issues. In September alone, I made 32 visits to a health care provider or agency. I have private insurance and pay OOP $500/month for a family of 5. I am a single mom by the way as well. My daughter’s illness is very, very serious but luckily treatable. I can’t imagine being without health insurance right now. I can’t imagine having to deal with the worries of wondering how I am going to pay for her health care.

    Only a family can decide for themselves what health care option is best but right now I am glad I have health insurance for my children and myself. I do shop around and try to keep costs of health care down but I am too chicken to gamble on my children’s health by not having insurance. I am able to provide all the health care my daughter needs through health insurance and so far I have only had to pay $500 deductible (plus monthly insurance fees) for thousands and thousands of dollars worth of health care thus far.

    • Crystal says:

      I am so very sorry about what you’re going through right now, but very grateful it is treatable.

      {By the way, my husband is a brain tumor survivor. He’s been tumor-free for almost 20 years and we’re so very grateful!}

      • Anna says:

        Thank you for sharing the information about your husband. Congratulations! Without tearing up, I was so concerned these last few weeks (and still am) about whether this illness is treatable or not. It is good to know about people who survived and went on to live wonderful lives. I believe God has a plan for all of us.

    • SDR says:

      This type of thing is exactly why we would never forego traditional health insurance. My cousin’s son was diagnosed at age two with a malignant brain tumor, was successfully treated and had a relapse five years later. He’s ten now and to date has accumulated over 5 million dollars in medical bills. Frankly, something like Samaritan would have bailed long ago.

      For them the ACA was life-changing; it gave her husband job options (he was a government employee, and prior to some of the changes made by ACA those were the only plans that didn’t have lifetime maximums) and will give their family so many more choices and options for their life than they ever thought possible.

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      I’m so sorry about what your family is going through. I want to add, though, that there are many Samaritan members that go through similar situations and have very high medical bills. There are members that fight cancer long term, have organ transplants, and many other chronic conditions that incur very high medical bills. And even though Samaritan is not insurance, their medical bills are paid for by Samaritan members.

      My own mom was a member for only 2 months when she underwent a triple bypass, valve replacement, and 5 days in the hospital. The bill was over $120K, but her out of pocket costs were close to $0.

      As I mentioned, Samaritan isn’t for everyone. But so far, members have been able to take care of all the needs that have been submitted, even the very large ones.

      • Anna says:

        I know I am sounding selfish but as a single mom, I have several responsibilities to consider, my children and being the sole provider of our household. I do not feel comfortable gambling on my children’s health issues. I have read good and bad about Samaritian and do not I feel take that kind of leap of faith to provide health care for my children. I already have one child with health issues and my own health issues (asthma, hypertension, back). I need some security that we will get the health care we need so I can work and support us as well. I feel that I made the absolutely right decision (for my family) to have health insurance particularly after my daughter got diagnosed with a brain tumor. On top of that my church has been wonderful in helping us as well.

        Families need to make informed decisions about their own health care needs. I like and need security and paying for health insurance feels right for my family. I am lucky or blessed to be able to have decent insurance at a reasonable price which includes very comprehensive care (health, dental, vision). I am not a gambler when it comes to my children’s health or my own.

        • Joy @ Five J's says:

          I totally understand. For our family, we were mostly healthy, so Samaritan was a good fit for us. At the time we joined, we didn’t foresee any major health issues (but obviously we’ve still had our share!). If we had been going to the doctor on a regular basis, I’m not sure we would have gone with Samaritan when we did.

          So I can totally understand why you’d be hesitant to do so. Samaritan is a great organization, but it’s definitely NOT the right fit for everyone.

  • Sarah says:

    Okay, so forgive me if someone else asked this already. But is this basically how it works: you go to the doctor or hospital, tell them you’re self-pay while you’re there, then when you get the bill you submit it to Samaritan (providing it’s over $300), then the rest of the Samaritan community pays you the difference? So you’d actually be paying the full bill, and then reimbursed through the Samaritan community? I’ve looked at these companies before and have been impressed and definitely interested, but I just always get confused as to how they actually work.

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      That’s how it works basically. Though for my own situation with my daughter, we didn’t pay any of her bills until we got the money from Samaritan members. For other bills, I’ve gotten my discounts ahead of time, paid the bill, and then just got reimbursed. Usually it’s best not to pay until you (or Samaritan) can negotiate as large a discount as possible.

      The thing about the $300 ‘deductible’ which I LOVE about Samaritan is that any discounts you can secure off the bill applies to that $300. So if I have a $5000 ER visit, and I get a $2000 discount, ALL $3000 is payable by Samaritan members, so my out of pocket is $0. (And yes, that’s an actually experience I had last year with my own ER visit).

      • Sarah says:

        Okay that makes sense. Couple more questions- how long is the turn around time between your doctor visit and when you receive the money from Samaritan? I’m assuming pretty quick but want to be sure. And do you tell Samaritan you have a “claim” right after you’re at the doctor or do you have to wait to get a bill to submit to them? It kind of sounds like the help/walk you through the whole process- is that correct? Sorry to pick your brain, I’ve been wanting to figure this out for a long time. 🙂

        • Sarah says:

          Hi Sarah, we are on Samaritan and I thought I would try to answer your questions. When my son fell and had to go to the ER for stitches, we called Samaritan once we got home from the hospital to request a needs processing form. They mailed that to me and then I filled it out as the bills came in. Your need is published 2 months after it is received. So since we mailed our forms in in September, the need will be published in November. In the meantime, I negotiated a payment plan with the hospital and the doctors office to pay a small amount each month until the Samaritan checks come in. The reason for the 2 month turnaround is at least in part to allow their professional negotiators to get a better deal on the bill.

  • Heather says:

    We were a part of Samaritan for several years and there were great things and not-so great. Definitely investigate it well if you are interested. I am happy to hear that Samaritan negotiated with providers for Joy’s family. One thing that frustrated me when we were members is that we were expected to do the negotiating and I found doctor’s offices very difficult to work with. I would get newsletters from Samaritan exhorting members to “be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem” of insurance but that was much easier said than done. Dealing with office staff pregnant, sick or pregnant and sick was hard. I found offices easier to deal with, too, when I had major medical insurance even though I was still paying them cash most of the time.

    On the up side, it is wonderful to get cards, prayers and well wishes from those sending their share. And to know that our money was going to directly to those in need of it. As far as accountability, one of our shares did not arrive but was taken care of promptly. Our homebirth was covered 100% and a friend had her doula covered (hospital birth).

    We are back on employee-sponsored insurance and I am very thankful for it at this time in our lives. Do check into whether it’s right for you but needs sharing ministries are a viable option.

    • Jessica says:

      I am a member of Christian Healthcare Ministries and have had two children and a week-long hospitalization for a serious illness while with them. With all three events, I paid MUCH less than I would have on my husband’s insurance. The bills for the last hospitalization totaled over $45,000, but because I was “self-pay” as far as doctors/hospitals are concerned and got significant discounts and thanks to the help from CHM, I paid only about $1000 out of pocket (almost all of which was an ambulance ride which was not eligible for bill sharing)! With CHM, you send your monthly gift to the ministry and they distribute the funds as needed. It costs me $85 a month. My entire family has been on it in the past for $255 a month (there are 6 of us).
      I’m also part of their Brother’s Keeper program, which helps with more catastrophic bills – up to $1 million. For that, I pay a small amount each quarter. This quarter it was $11. CHM is the perfect option for our family – we simply could not afford the $500 a month or more it would cost to be on my husband’s employer-provided insurance. And I love the fact that my monthly gift goes to help other believers pay their bills!

    • HeatherP says:

      Samaritan now has a 3rd party group to help us with negotiating discounts. We are encouraged to get what we can, but there are others who also step in to help with this. It seems to depend on the area, some places give great discounts easily (I imagine where there is more competition), others not so much. The 3rd party group (no cost to members) who does this averages 44% discounts which is great for all members. Pretty impressive.

  • Christina says:

    Crystal,
    I can’t read a post like this without warning your readers. If a policy like Medishare or Samaritan Ministries sounds too good to be true, IT IS. A stern warning in fact. If they say in their literature that they may deny benefits, KNOW THAT THEY WILL IN FACT DENY BENEFITS. My husband was recently hospitalized and was denied sharing with Medishare due to “a pre-existing condition”. He had no such condition diagnosed, but they will not share the $60,ooo bills with us because he had “symptoms” of the condition in the past. The only way this condition can be diagnosed is through biopsy which he never had in the past. We were only months ago a “all-but-mortgage-debt-free-full-time-ministry-family” and now have enormous bills not paid for by other “Christians”. I will NEVER recommend these “ministries” to friends let alone enemies.

    • Joy @ Five J's says:

      So sorry that that happened to you. Denying coverage of bills is something that I know is possible with any health care sharing ministry. But I also know it’s possible with health insurance companies too. I’ve heard of a number of people who had procedures that insurance refused to pay for one reason or another. So yes, it’s definitely something to be aware of with ministries like Samaritan, but it could also happen with regular insurance as well.

      My own mom’s experience with Samaritan, having a triple bypass and valve replacement only 2 months after joining (and having the full amount shared with members) gave us a lot of confidence in Samaritan.

    • Jennifer says:

      For the sake of those reading these comments, I’d like to note that Christian Healthcare Ministries recently added the ability to share costs for expenses related to pre-existing conditions. During your first 3 years of membership, the amount eligible to be shared is limited (details here: http://www.chministries.org/preexistingconditions.aspx), but after that, the condition is no longer considered pre-existing.

      My husband and I have been members of Christian Healthcare Ministries for over 7 years now and they have shared the costs associated with the births of our four children. They have been a blessing for our family.

  • Karen says:

    Sweet! I’m just waiting to hear back from my boss (I asked for a raise to cover half my cost) in order to join up with Samaritan! I looked at two others as well, but this one seems to be the most logical. I’m a nanny, so have gone without for the past two years. I’m excited to be able to feel a bit more comfortable knowing I have some back-up in case something happens. So nice to hear from someone I’m “familiar” with who uses Samaritan!

  • Amanda Yoder says:

    I don’t necessarily love that it’s religiously tied, but I do like the idea behind it. I’m glad it meets the new requirements, because it seems like a good plan. I’m glad you shared about it for more people to know the positive and negatives.

    • Daria says:

      Quick question- does anyone know of a similar service for people who are NOT religious and/or do not belong to a religious group?

  • Jenni says:

    We are apart of a similar group. It is called medishare. Instead we write our check to the company and they pay the members. We also get ain’t holy prayer list. They have health incentive programs to lower costs and health/ diet counseling available

  • Thank you for this timely post! Our $5000 deductible plan with Kaiser is going up 100% in January. We just cannot afford to keep paying for these increases!! We will definitely be looking into Samaritan’s!

    • lisa says:

      I checked on it before & they dont cover anything for diabetics , no matter if your A1C test is normal & you have it under good control. I ask how can this be Christian to discriminate against other Christians because they have a disease, but are doing there best to control it. I kept my A1C at 7 or under & eat good & exercise. I can only say that they choose who they are going to care about. They dont cover certain heart problems either. My Mom had heart problems, but it was caused by thyroid being removed when in 30s & Dr. not giving her medicine. It wasnt her fault, but according to these programs it is. Also they are not insurance & can cover or not cover anything at any time. Be careful you may be wasting your money worse than with insurance, at least you have a contract with them & know what you can expect.

      • Amy B says:

        Lisa, although the pre-existing conditions of diabetes and heart disease are not considered “publishable” with Samaritan Ministries you can submit these needs as “Special Prayer Needs.” This is where you would send the need in and those who could or felt led by the Lord would send money to you to help pay that pre-existing condition need that wasn’t “publishable.” When my husband and I joined I was already pregnant so the maternity need wasn’t fully publishable. Then at 15 weeks I had a miscarriage and incurred high hospitable bills because of an emergency surgery. We submitted this need as a special prayer need and were amazed at the generosity of the Samaritan members. The prayers, gifts, and encouragement were so welcome and would have NEVER come from having typical insurance.

  • Amy B says:

    Samaritan Ministries is a great organization! We’ve been members since 2010, and it’s been a blessing.

  • Ali says:

    There is also Medi-Share part of the Christian Care Ministry – Similar to Samaritan’s Ministry. http://mychristiancare.org/ Both ministries work the same – sharing and partnering to meet the needs of other believers.

  • Olivia says:

    We just switched over to Samaritan a few months ago for the same reason. My husbands insurance was going up almost double to $1080 A MONTH for a teacher . That is almost a third of his paycheck so we HAD to find something else. My son just had an ER visit so this will be our first time needing coverage. I’m glad to hear all went well with your daughter. I love this program and how it’s supportive for Christian living.

  • allison says:

    What if the personal checks you receive bounce? And what if someone doesn’t pay as expected?

    • Heather says:

      Samaritan sends you a checklist of people who will be sending you money for your medical needs, including how much they will be sending. If someone’s check is missing, you just notify Samaritan and they either reassign it to someone else or that person sends it after a reminder. The “missing” money is provided within the next month. And that is a pretty rare occurrence. If someone has a habit of not sending their monthly amount, they are removed from membership after 2 or 3 times.

  • kathy MACKENZIE says:

    I tried to re enter my address because I could really use that cookbook, and it wouldn’t let me . Please help me with this. Thanks, Kathy MacMacKenzie

  • Tiffani says:

    Thanks for the great post! We are also SM members and it has saved us a lot of money (and time and headaches). For the first 13 years of marriage we had “regular” insurance and it was like pulling teeth to get them to pay for ANYTHING! Such a headache!! I had a bike accident that involved the ER, dental surgery and braces and it took hours of phone calls and paperwork to get next to nothing repaid. My pregnancies and births were covered 80% until we couldn’t afford the maternity option and didn’t cover home births. After these issues just kept repeating we started to consider SM after seeing it advertised in World magazine. The final straw was when they sent us notification that same sex partners were considered married and the insurance covers procedures related to that lifestyle. Since we agree philosophically and spiritually with SM and are a generally healthy family we took the plunge and have been VERY pleased. Our last child was a home birth and our expenses were covered 100%, ultrasounds, visits, everything. When I called to submit the claim they were so joyful and helpful on the phone and prayed for me. It was truly wonderful!! I can’t recommend them enough. As has been stated above, they are not for every family, but they are a great fit for us and we are very happy.

  • Sharon S says:

    Nothing wrong with providing information on Samaritan. However, like you said its not for everyone. A more comprehensive discussion would also include the Affordable Care Act.

  • Jenny in UT says:

    Are there any similiar companies for non-Christians?

    • Crystal says:

      I’ve not heard of any. Does anyone else know?

    • HeatherP says:

      I found reference to a non religious health co-op that covered residents of Nebraska and Iowa, but not sure of any others. Maybe google health co-op and see what’s out there. Be sure to study if they are exempt from obamacare or meet the requirements as regular insurance though.

  • JEAN says:

    this works great if you are not already with a health issue. I was turned down

  • Leslie says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always wondered about these kinds of options. We currently pay out of pocket for a high deductible HSA plan, the premium of which will more than double at the first of the year. That’s more than a house payment! My question is: If we were to go with a sharing ministry and then want to return to a more traditional heathcare option later, would the sharing ministry be considered “continual coverage” or would we be penalized going back? I hope that makes sense. I appreciate your experience and insight.

    • HeatherP says:

      I asked that same question once (about going back) and was told that Samaritan can/has sent letters to insur companies explaining what they are and what members had available to them. It apparently wasn’t a problem. With obamacare it becomes a moot point because insur cannot discriminate based on things like that anymore. There is an enrollment period for obamacare (this year is through Mar 2014) from Oct to Dec each year. So anyone who wants to go back would have to wait until October to reenroll, unless it’s a qualifying event (birth, marriage, new job rules, etc). From what I’ve been reading I don’t think we’ll be going back to regular insurance… Samaritan is a blessing!

  • Erin says:

    Jump on it if you dont have ins now. Aca is going to be a nightmare for a long time.

  • We would like to join Samaritan, but we can’t afford $370 per month.

    Currently, my husband and I go without health insurance and God has been faithful to take care of us. My husband currently has a cellulitis infection and we are treating it naturally as we have done in the past.

    We treat colds and flues all naturally and ask for God’s will and intercession before we see the doctor.

    My children have Medicaid for their once a year visit.

    If we were to be in an accident, there are many ways it could be covered, including by charity from the hospital because of our low income.

    God knows how hard my husband works to support our family (over 80 hours per week), and where we are at financially, and meets us there. Until the fines for not getting insurance exceed $4000 per year (what it would cost for us to join Samaritan or get “regular” insurance), this is where we will live.

  • Mel says:

    I’ve always been interested in this but how do you know how much your “share” is going to be each month? What if you can’t afford your “share”? And how do they know everyone’s sending their money? What was everyone’s share of the $80k bill? I guess I need to look into this more!

    • Thad says:

      Yes you do know. If you have a family membership, like I do, my share is $405 each month. The ministry tells me who to send it to exactly.

    • Amy Zuck says:

      Your share is always the same depending on if you are a single payer, family etc. A family is typically $405 now (raised a little since this article though members have to vote if they want to raise it or not). That is your “share” of the need. The person that has the need checks off each share received and sends it to samaritan so everyone knows none are missing. They have always been very helpful in answering questions so feel free to call. I called several times before I joined! They also have a referral program so be sure if you sign up to list if someone referred you also.

      This is what my experience has been with samaritan (note all sharing ministries are Not the same as they work differently)

      Pros:
      *Affordable
      *Sharing with other Christians with Christian values
      *Personal notes are normally sent with shares (what a blessing!)
      *”I believe” that they except everyone who agrees with their values aka you won’t be denied if you apply
      *Never had to “fight” to get things covered or even questioned about the bills

      Cons:
      *Can be a pain handling the bills/hospitals/providers till you get them paid (our hospital in a rural town now doesn’t really work with/discount people without insurance and are very strict with how quickly they have to be paid) not normally a problem though if you have a little savings to cover the in between months (takes about 2mnths to receive shares)
      *Normal checkups can add up with multiple kids though most places have some type of program you can sign up for to get them reduced depending on your salary.
      *Some pre-existing conditions are not covered (like insurance you have to read through yourself what is covered and not covered)
      * I “believe” most maintenance meds are not covered, but I will be checking into that prescription plan she mentioned!

      Hope that info helps someone!

  • Mardell Hill says:

    Not sure if my questions went through or not, so I will repeat it.
    My catastrophic plan is being discontinued.
    Samaritan looks like a perfect plan for me.
    May I keep my HSA to pay any health care bills if I join Samaritan.

  • Brenda Lynch says:

    Marble Hill, I was told by my CPA that you can keep the HSA and use it to pay bills, but can no longer contribute to it. That is one of my concerns also. I need to check into that further and decide. My insurance is going up again next month.

    • Margaret Davis says:

      My understanding is you can pay bills, but you cannot use it for your healthcare ministry fees.

      • Elizabeth H. says:

        That is my understanding also, but I know they are lobbying to try to change that hopefully in the future so you can use an HSA

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