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Ask the Readers: Health Insurance

I am wondering if you or any of your readers
have any advice about health insurance. My husband’s company does
provide our health insurance–at least, they obtain it and then put a
certain amount towards the premium each year and we pay the difference (it is an
HMO policy–optical insurance and dental insurance are not offered).

The
premium went up last year, and my husband was just informed that it may
increase again this year–by between 20-60%. We are beginning
to research alternate forms of insurance for our family. Do you have any
experience with Samaritan Ministries?  We contemplated using them last year,
however, my husband was concerned (and still is) about what would happen if we
should have a major medical expense arise (such as a major surgery or cancer
diagnosis). -Wendi

We personally have private health insurance through Humana (PPO-HSA). We shopped around quite a bit to find a policy which not only had an affordable monthly rate for a family plan (we pay $347/month) but which had the kind of coverage we were wanting.

Since we have a fully-funded emergency fund, we are able to have a higher deductible which, in turn, allows our monthly rates to be lower. Currently, under our plan, we have a $5000 deductible per year and 100% coverage above that. For me, I like the assurance of knowing that were we to have a major medical expense, we would be covered.

We've seriously looked into Samaritan Ministries and other such insurance alternatives but found we felt our current insurance plan was better suited for our family's needs.

I would recommend knowing what is important to you and your family in an insurance plan, knowing what you can afford as far as a monthly payment and a deductible, and then taking some time to really shop around and see what various plans and options are out there.

I'd love to hear from the rest of you on health insurance. What do you have? What kind of rates do you pay? And do you have any suggestions or input for Wendi and her family?

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85 Comments

  • Louise says:

    Crystal,We too have a HSA with a $5800 deductible and 100% coverage thereafter.  We are able to put up to $5800 a year in the HSA.  However, our monthly payment is closer to $600 a month.  Did you find, in your research, that plans such as these varied a great deal in monthly cost for the same benefits/deductible? Also, would you mind sharing the maximum amount you are able to put in the HSA per year. I just wonder if we need to shop ours down more. Thank you.

  • LK says:

    We are self employed, and have a very similar plan to Crystal and her family.

    We contacted an insurance broker locally who could give us all the various options and information, and then we were able to choose what provider and plan were best for us from many options. That type of service might be helpful for you to determine what works for your family, maybe even a combo of private insurance and that provided by your employer? These folks are paid by the insurers, not by you.

  • Michele says:

    We are very blessed to have our health insurance premiums fully covered by my husband’s work. I cannot imagine not having health insurance. If our insurance weren’t covered by my husband’s work, we would buy it privately. Personally, I don’t think Samaritan Ministries is a good option if you have something catastrophic happen. But, you need to look at your family’s needs – if you have several children and expect to have more, then you will be paying a lot in regular pediatricians’ visits as well as pre-natal visits, labor, delivery, etc. I would get the best coverage that you can afford.

  • Cici says:

    health insurance is important. if u are in school, student health is affordable and very good

  • Lisa says:

    We are currently members of Samaritan Ministries since my husband’s insurance through work would be way too expensive for us. We have not yet had any medical expenses that we have had to submit. However I talked with a family who are members who have had to submit medical expenses and they were very happy with how everything was handled. We feel it is a wonderful way to be a part of the Christian community. It definitely takes faith to believe that God will provide for us should anything happen. But we do definitely believe that. We love writing our monthly checks to a Christian family in need rather than a big insurance company.

  • Rachel says:

    In my family of three we all have a different insurance plan. My three year old son is very healthy and has a policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield. It is $67 a month, which I think is reasonable.

    My husband has a separate policy through BCBS. It costs a bit more and has a high deductible. We pay a little under $100 a month for that. I think that is expensive, especially considering all he has is asthma, and that his asthma is well controlled. However, this was the very best policy we could find.

    I am disabled and have Medicare and a Medicare supplement. That’s a-whole-nother topic! Before I was eligible for Medicare I was uninsurable, and it was a very frustrating and difficult time.

    I won’t take up space here to write about insurance for disabled people, Medicare, supplemental insurance, etc. It can be quite detailed and confusing. However, if anyone has any questions about insurance with a disability, please feel free to email me: cranberryteatime@hotmail.com I’m not an expert by any means, but I have been through it and I can speak from experience.

    Rachel

  • Lila says:

    We went into ministry with Crown Financial Ministries and needed insurance coverage. Like you, we have a fully-funded emergency fund (6 mo.) and choose a high deductible plan. We have a $5000.00 deductible, but we also set up a Health Savings Account. Each year you can put up to the amount of your deductible into the plan. We use an automatic transfer to fund ours. This fund can be used to pay for any deductibles, but also non-covered things like braces, over-the-counter medications,
    medical supplies, eye-care, etc. The contributions to the HSA are deductible. Also, you may be able to fund your first year with a one-time, tax-free distribution from your IRA. (Please consult your tax accountant or lawyer!) This has worked really well for us!–Lila

  • Tawra Kellam says:

    We have AffordaBlue with Blue Cross.

    We pay $427 a month for Mike and the kids. It has $1,000 deductible and co-pay for each person up to $3,000 each for the family per year.

    Because I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome they will not insure me so I am on Medicare.

    It sounds like we should look into Humana. It might be a better deal for us.

    Tawra

  • Amy Ellen says:

    Our family uses Samaritan Ministries and has for over ten years. In that time, we have had every medical need provided for. However, our medical needs have been limited to four baby deliveries! I would recommend this ministry, if it fits into your family’s needs/goals. If you would like further information, you are welcome to email me.

    Amy Ellen at HealthBeginsWithMom

  • jujiNovoa says:

    All my husband and I can do now is be grateful (incredibly grateful) that teachers are still offered low cost benefits. Our benefits would be free if we wanted to go to a set list of providers, but we pay a small (significantly less than $100) a month to be able to choose our preferred providers. Dental, Vision, and Life are separate and extra though. My husband has vision (I do not) because he has a strong prescription and needs regular check-ups.

    I think when we have children we may have to allow my husband to continue insurance through his employer and seek family insurance elsewhere however, due to the fact it starts at $560 monthly with our employer who insures us through Aetna.

  • Courtney says:

    I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this, specifically if there is anyone out there who has experience with private insurance to cover children with medical needs. One of our sons receives occupational therapy and we anticipate two children joining our family shortly who will need several surgeries and therapies. I am uncertain if there are any good private insurance plans that will cover these types of medical needs.

  • Insurance is such a tough issue. We have struggled with it on and off. Right now, my husband is employed PT at FedEx. We pay right around $200/month for our family of 5 with a $1000/person annual max OOP. The coverage is great and we’ve never yet needed more than 2 of us in one year to require the max OOP.

    My husband’s main job offers HORRIBLE insurance rates with HORRIBLE coverage. It’s been a struggle for us to figure out when he should quit working at FedEx (since he primarily works there for the insurance coverage) and, when he does, what we should do about insurance.

    I know a family who has used Samaritan Ministries on and off for years and the Lord has always provided for them through that ministry.

    I am interested to follow the answers in this post as well.

  • Melissa says:

    Crystal, I also looked into private insurance with my family, but because I want to have another baby in a year, I found the maternity coverage to be too expensive, so I will have to stay at my job (with good insurance coverage) for another year. Did you pay for a maternity coverage? Did that increase your costs significantly?

  • Just to let others know…we had Evangelical Trust Fund for awhile. It’s for pastors and missionaries and it was a horrible experience and they wouldn’t pay on stuff because the fund didn’t have the money to pay. I had a surgery and we almost got stuck with huge medical bills until we got our state insurance people involved. I would just warn people to stay away from the “fund” type insurance because if they don’t have enough “funds” then they won’t pay your medical bills.

  • Sarah says:

    Crystal-
    Do you have maternity insurance? We buy an individual policy, since my husband’s company provides no insurance. We bought maternity coverage to cover the baby we just had, but I’m not really sure that was the best use of our money. We still ended up paying our full deductible last year, and cleaning out our HSA anyway. Just wondering how you are handling maternity expenses. We are rethinking this in order to be prepared for another baby.

  • brenna says:

    I’ve always been scared to go without full, complete coverage and I’m glad I was. Last year, while pregnant, I was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer). I have no family history and I am very healthy, so this was a complete surprise. In one year we had over $200,000 in medical expenses! My insurance (which I pay through the nose for) picked up almost all of it. It would have broken us financially if we weren’t covered well. I guess my advice is…don’t assume you’re healthy or careful enough that you can skimp on insurance. You just never know.

  • Teresa Schilling says:

    We have had Samaritain for over 8 years and love it. Worth every cent. Never had a problem and had two claims and 3 preg. Can’t beat knowing that you have hundreds of people praying in a time of need. Also the staff is so friendly. If you wouldn’t mind I can get credit if you sign up from me. OK if you have someone else already. I will never change back to insurance. I don’t fund for things I don’t agree with personally or biblically and that is such a added bonus for this day and age. Email me if you have any questions. Tschilling@centurytel.net

  • Emily says:

    We feel blessed to live in Oregon because we are responsible for our own health insurance and we are able to get $500 deductible insurance for $380 a month (for the whole family-husband, me, and 2 kids) directly through one of the hospitals here. It’s amazing coverage and we can pick our our providers. I’m delivering a baby any day now and the whole delivery will most likely only cost us around $2000! After hearing what other people pay in other states, we really do feel blessed by the coverage we can get!

  • Jenny Muth says:

    We have coverage for my husband and I through Aetna. I think we have a $2500 deductible, with office visits at $30 and prescriptions for $10. We pay $206/mo for the two of us.

  • Sarah M. says:

    My DH and I were young and healthy (early 20’s) when we had our first child – and then she was born at 24 weeks due to pre-eclampsia, completely out of the blue. To give you an idea of how out of the blue it was, I was planning a homebirth and the night I went into the hospital, I thought I had a migrane. I had her 12 hours later…

    Anyway, after that experience, I personally will never be comfortable going to no insurance unless in a situation like job loss, and a plan like Samaritan’s Ministry is basically no insurance – simply because if then something life changing happens, you are considered “uninsurable” and in a world of hurt. We are very blessed that we were on a good, solid insurance plan when my daughter was born, as from birth she was considered uninsurable and we never would have been able to buy private insurance on her – but because we already had insurance, she’s been covered. 😉

    The plan Crystal talks about looks really good!

  • Kelli says:

    We have used Samaritan for almost a year now. So far, we haven’t had to file anything, but we really do enjoy the process of sharing one another’s medical burdens. We are in enrolled in their family plan, the motor vehicle plan, and the Save-to-Share program. We have never paid more than $325 per month for our family. We pay expenses up to $300, which is fine since we have an emergency fund; everything past that is covered. The Save-to-Share covers expenses past $100,000. We are currently paying off $25,000 in medical debt very slowly due to having a baby without insurance and then our child (who was insured) getting sick twice – once in Dec 07 and once in Jan 08. Our insurance company made us pay both years deductibles (they said they changed the rules from 12 months of coverage/deductible to calendar year/deductible and then 25% past that. I love that with Samaritan, I know they won’t do that to us, everything is covered past $300, and none of our money is going to pay for unnecessary cosmetic surgery or abortions, which insurance companies will sometimes cover (even without your knowledge). The only disappointing thing is that they will not pay 100% of any births that occur before the first 18 months you are enrolled. But, they will pay the cumulative total of what you’ve paid in and if you get pregnant in month 9, they’ll cover everything because the baby won’t be born until after month 18. I really feel that this a Biblical approach to health coverage. It was scary for us at first giving up something that felt so legitimate to go to Samaritan, but we feel that God has truly honored our decision, made our finances stretch, and since we trust him with our future family members, protected us from another large pregnancy/delivery bill.

  • Christy says:

    My family is covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield HMO Blue. I have not always been a fan of HMO coverage since you have to choose a primary care provider who coordinates all of your care and I really like to self refer to specialists. The doctor I have always wanted is not on the HMO and recently my OB/GYN dropped the HMO patients. I did look into private coverage to save some money but was a little concerned with the idea of a prexisting condition and the fact that they would not be covered at all in some cases or only after a bit of time has passed. It was not worth my worry to pay a little less each month, and it really wasn’t much less. Plus, the lifetime limit is unlimited with our current plan so we are protected in case of catastrophic illness. Also, you have to look at mental health coverage between the plans. Women are more likely than men to suffer depression and anxiety. Postpartum depression is also a problem and you don’t want to be in a situation where you need the help of a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist and can’t get the help you need. You also need to check into portablility, in other words, if you travel, how are you medical needs going to be met. And your husband is right to be concerned about catastrophic illness or injury coverage. It only takes one car accident, a fall down the stairs, a bad illness to wipe out your financial future. For example, last summer I was suffering from a severe burning pain under my right ribcage. My doctor sent me for an abdominal ultrasound to check for gall stones. Didn’t find gallstones but they did find an ovarian cyst and thought they saw kidney stones. I was sent for a HIDA scan to test my gallbladder fuction, which was abnormal and an abdominal CT with contrast to check for the kidney stones. No kidney stones were found but they did find a cyst in my kidney. I then had an abdominal MRI with contrast to make sure the cyst wasn’t a mass. This all happened in one week. I cannot imagine what the cost was for all that. I am very thankful for our coverage. I would think long and hard about your current coverage and what you would be going to if you left your current insurance provider. I would think about the following:

    1. Do you currently have a deductible or a copay?

    2. If you are going to an equivalent plan, will the deductible or copay go up or down for both office visits, hospital visits, lab or diagnostics and medication?

    3. If you are going from a deductible to copay or vice versa, how much will you really be saving? I don’t know how many kiddos you have or how often you are in the doctor’s office so this might be a very important difference.

    I would do some math on this point. Look at your last year of medical care with your current plan and write down how much you paid for ALL doctor’s visits, meds, hospital stays, etc AND your monthly premium multiplied by 12. Do the same for any plan you are considering, pretending that all of those visits and premiums were under that plan at whatever rates they charge. That should give you some solid figures to consider.

    4. Are any of your family members on long-term medicine therapy such as blood pressure meds, migraine prevention, cholesterol meds, psychiatric drugs, chronic pain, ADD/ADHD, birth control, thyroid meds, heart meds, arthritis meds…….. I could name lots of conditions that you need to consider. Would these be covered as a preexisiting condition and what would the cost difference be as far as copay vs. copay, copay vs. deductible, deductible vs. copay.

    5. Is mental health covered?

    6. Check on maternity coverage.

    7. What are the lifetime maximum limits? Cancer and other catastrophic illnesses are expensive to treat. Is it likely you will be hit with an illness? Probably not likely. But I would rather spend a little more to make sure I have the best coverage for the money I pay.

    8. Are your primary care doctors/specialists on the new plan?

    9. Is there a hospital in your area that takes the insurance you are considering?

    10. Are well child visits/well woman visits/well man visits covered in full including vaccines(if you vaccinate)?

    11. What happens if you travel and are in need of care?

    12. Is there coverage for “doc in a box” visits?

    13. Do any of your family members have special needs and how would coverage change under the new plan (physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.)?

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Good luck!

  • Nicole says:

    Christian Care Medi-Share might be something else to look into.

    http://medi-share.org/

    For Programs and Amounts go here:
    http://medi-share.org/program_options.aspx

  • My in-laws a members of Samaritan ministries – a few years ago my mother-in-law had to have emergency gall-bladder surgery and an appendectomy. If I recall correctly, my father-in-law had to pay cash upfront, but the hospital significantly lowered the bill because he paid cash (from $15,000 to about $7000). After that, Samaritan ministries reimbursed them (though I don’t know what percentage was reimbursed).

    I DO know that they had Samaritan Ministries the whole time my husband was growing up, and he virtually NEVER went to the doctor even when he needed to (like when he accidentally ran his hand under a saw and needed stitches on all his fingers but wrapped them up in a paper towel instead, or when he had bronchitis and needed antibiotics, and his parents let him tough it out). I don’t know if it was just his parents or if the insurance didn’t cover much besides emergencies, but when he grew up and got a job with what he calls “real” insurance, he needed a lot of doctoring to fix 20 years of no doctoring.

    One thing you might want to consider is that you or your family may not qualify for private health insurance if you have any preexisting conditions: I don’t qualify because I have type II diabetes. I COULD get onto one of those plans where they have to take you, but for me alone it would cost almost $1000 a month. My condition is very well managed and under control, my medications cost $10 a month and my doctor sees me for $40 every three months, so it makes more financial sense for to just not have health insurance, but if I had the option of taking my husband’s company’s health insurance, I would.

  • Becky says:

    We just signed up for Medi-Share, which is similar to Samaritan’s Ministries. It just makes sense biblically. My husband is a public school teacher and the district plan just keeps going up and up with less and less coverage. We will try this for a year; if it doesn’t work out, we can re-enroll with the district plan during next year’s open enrollment.

  • Alicia says:

    I’d be curious how you did you research. How do you go about finding potential plans? We’re in my works’ plan now, but will need to switch this summer, and it will likely be a private plan (we would be keen on the high deductible kind as we have an emergency fund too) or else a share kind of plan, like Samaritan. I just don’t know where to start finding a plan. Our first baby is coming in early May and we should have coverage through July with my work and could do cobra if we needed, but that would be pretty costly.

    I’ve heard of people using one of Dave Ramsey’s endorsed local providers for leads on insurance.

  • Tanya says:

    My hubby sells insurance. It’s crazy how much money we put into insurance in this country. What is even worse is the price hike that so many companies have taken. They draw you in at a resonable price and then hike it up up up and force the consumer to shop around.
    I have heard of the company you mentioned. A friend of mine was on it when she had her 4th baby. Delivery was not covered and it hurt them in the long run. But each family has different pro’s and con’s to weigh out.
    Just so you know, my hubby’s company has “a age guarentee premium.” Meaning your starting rate is based on your age and stays at that rate forever, as long as you pay your premium on time each month. You will never see a extreem hike in your cost. There are mulitple plans to chose from and they are a A+ rated company that works in all states, PPO so you choose your own doctor and hospital anywhere in the US.
    I am in no way trying to sell you on his company. I just know that “age issued premiums” are not common. Here is their webstie, if you like I can get you hooked up with a agent in your area. Hope this is helpful for you, I know that you have helped me navigate through saving money for our family of six and I would be privialged to do you a favor in return.

    Tanya
    http://www.unitedamerican.com

  • Alicia says:

    I also wanted to add that my associate pastor uses Samaritan and has a special needs daughter and they have had a great experience. His son also needed hip surgery in college and they were able to go out of state and they have still had a great experience.

    Our intention with maternity is to pay out of pocket for deliveries (hopefully at birth centers or possibly at home) and NOT have maternity coverage. It’s just TOO expensive to have the coverage on a private plan. If I had premature labor or other pregnancy difficulties, I don’t know at this point how that would be handled.

  • Jennifer says:

    If you live in Florida, you can get low cost health insurance through many providers. Go to Myflorida.com for more info!!

  • Jan says:

    Does anyone know how to get health insurance if you have a pre-existing condition? My husband has Diabetes and my daughter has Cerebral Palsy. Are we just doomed to go on Medicare?

  • Jay says:

    (In FL) We have been happy with Goldenrule United Healthcare. Myself and the 3 kids pay ~335/month with a high deductible 2500. We didn’t pay extra to have a copay but one nice thing is we don’t have to pay anything for well baby visits but we are at the stage in life with the many well baby visits in the first year so it works for us. The times we have to get tests done that are not covered we get the discounted rate they give the insurance. Bloodwork was about $4 for example.

  • Calee says:

    My daughter was born prematurely and with a barely noticeable cleft lip (no surgery required.) When my husband left his job, she was declared uninsurable. We started our own business and pay 660 a month for the three of us. I’ve tried to find a lower option and now that she’s 2 it should go down a bit, but there’s no one out there that will cover her privately except the state fund and that’s even more expensive. I hate paying this much for health insurance, but her hospital bills were over 100K– we paid 2500 so there’s absolutely no way I’d go with a low cost/low service provider if you’re expecting a pregnancy in the future.

  • Wendy says:

    Crystal – I’m also wondering if your insurance plan includes maternity – could you elaborate?

  • Kristina says:

    We use Christian Healthcare Ministries. Maternity coverage is included for all members. We pay $135 per month for our whole family. That amount covers all hospital costs above $5000, with a maximum of $125,000. There are two other plans with lower minimums and coverage for doctor visits that cost more. There is also an add-on program called Brothers’ Keeper that increases the maximum up to $1 million. We have been members for about 3 years and have not had any medical needs to submit, but we are very impressed with how they run their organization. They also send out a monthly newsletter with a page of members who have needs related to pre-existing conditions so that other members can donate to them (most pre-existing conditions are not covered). Here is their website with FAQs:

    http://www.chministries.org/faq.asp

  • Robyn says:

    Just a note; my husband is self-employed, and for the first 3 years of my daughter’s life I stayed home, so we had to find private insurance, which was TOUGH. We had an older friend who recommended NASE (National Association for the Self Employed), which turned out to be a terrible, terrible mistake. If anyone runs onto this option, run like your pants are on fire! Premium started low and then just went up, up, up…and they never covered anything. Of course, my husbo needed 3 rootcanals in 1 year, and they paid a grand total of $50. So, $7000 oop, just for that. Yikes!

  • Vanessa says:

    I am a single member of Samaritan Ministries and have been very pleased with it. Although their basic plan only covers the first $100,000 of cost per illness, they do have a full coverage option that is very reasonably priced. The one thing I like about it is that there are no restrictions on international travel, which is a plus for those of us who are interested in missions. I’m not eligible for employer-based insurance because I don’t work full-time, so Samaritan Ministries has been a blessing to me.

  • Nicole says:

    After reading these comments I fell almost guilty for complaining about the cost of my insurance. I pay about 20% of my monthly premium for my husband, myself, and one child (employer picks up the other 80%), which comes out to about $250/month. We have low co-pays, and low deductibles. God bless you in your search for affordable family coverage.

  • Debi says:

    We are self employed and had to seek out our own health insurance. One option is to join an organization that has a group insurance benefit. We have been able to join our state farm bureau and access BCBS through their group coverage. We pay $40 per year to belong to the farm bureau. We have done this for 14 years and have been happy with it. The rates have increased over the years but remain reasonable for us. Right now we pay $445/month for a family of 6. We do have a high deductible but the deductible is waived for well visits, ER visits and outpatient procedures. The coverage is 90% and is PPO, we choose our providers. If we choose a provider outside of the network, the coverage goes down to 80%. We dropped the maternity benefit a few years ago because the maximum payout was actually LESS than the annual cost that it added to our rate. We have had 2 children since then and opted to just self-pay. If you do not have maternity insurance, health care providers and hospitals will negotiate a cash payment fee for maternity services. That fee is drastically lower than what what they would bill your insurance for. But..our policy DOES cover pregnancy complications or a required ceserean as medical issues not normal maternity services. SO, if you do not have maternity that usually just means that the policy will not cover NORMAL pre-natal care and a normal vaginal delivery. That gives us the security to know that any high cost associated with complications are covered. That did happen to us and our insurance paid. We had already paid for the normal delivery service and the hospital reimbursed us that money once our insurance stepped in.
    I am an RN and have worked part time in the past but have never wanted to be a situation that I needed to continue working to keep insurance. Having it independent of a job works best for us.

  • My hubby and I are both self-employed, and carry a high-end policy found through ehealthinsurance.com Other ways we save $$ include:

    *Paying cash at the doctor’s office (typically we get a 40% discount for doing so)

    *Asking the Pharmacist health related questions to avoid paying for a doctor’s visit

    *Using coupons when getting prescriptions

    *Exercising & eating healthy! 🙂

  • Alisha says:

    My daughter was diagnosed with cancer last April and since then her medical care has cost our insurance over $600,000, and we are no where near done with treatment. Not that this is a common occurance, but without the insurance we would be in financial trouble. We have what some would consider a high out of pocket max, but when compared with what we could be paying, I am grateful!

  • I wanted to post quickly here and say that while it is not for everyone, Samaritan Ministries has been my choice for health care for 13 years now. I am currently working for them, but joined in 1996 after our first daughter was born and would never want to do anything else!

    consider this: prayer means things. We have families praying for one another and no insurance company will ever match that. second, we are not given a spirit of fear–most of the reason people choose insurance is because of what might happen. I joined Samaritan because i wanted to help with *what did happen.* Insurance companies can only make the guarantees they do because the state backs them up (at taxpayer expense I would add) if something really bad happens. But with Samaritan, there is a faith based, truly pro-life (have you checked to see if your insurance company ever pays for abortions?) option for Christians.

    Thanks for the links, and I hope you guys will check us out, and I’m glad for anyone to email me with specific questions.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President, Samaritan Ministries

  • Kim says:

    We are members of Samaritan Ministries and have been for nearly a decade. Through Samaritan Ministries God and His people have met our health care needs and I have peace of conscience knowing my money goes to someone in need and is not being used to fund immoral practices.

  • Amy says:

    We have a one deductible plan, like Crystal, through Assurant Health. We are going on three years with the plan, and I’ve been very pleased. We pay $374 a month and have a $5600 deductible with 100% coverage after that. You pay everything out of pocket until you reach that point (no co-pays for doctor visits or medicine), but you are only charged the amount allowed by insurance. We won’t be needing maternity at this point, so I’m not sure how that’s handled with this type of plan. Once we switched over to this plan, we set up a Health Savings Account (HSA). There are quite a few benefits to having one.
    You’re doing your homework, so I’m sure you’ll find the best plan for your family!

  • Jess Taylor says:

    We use Samaritan Ministries and LOVE it!

  • Liz says:

    This is a tough question! I think it really touches on some important philosophical and faith issues. As Christians, we know that God will provide our every need and that all things will work together to glorify Him. I definitely see, then, some of the reasoning behind going with something like Samaritan Ministries. Personally, my husband and I (and our little one on the way) are insured through our work’s HMOs. If we didn’t have this option we would probably still go with a traditional, large insurance company. My dad has battled brain cancer for 3 years (and will for the rest of his life), and my parents are so thankful for the financial backing of a large company. They still find themselves having to daily rely on God to provide for their needs even with a large company.

    In a way, this strikes me as a question as much regarding how to daily work out our faith as it is a question of straight finances. What’s right for your family may not be the choice that another family feels compelled to make to glorify God, and that’s okay! I think that it’s awesome that you’re asking for advice and researching all your options. Be prayerful in your consideration and be confident that God will lead you to make the best decision!

  • Ann says:

    We are changing our insurance yet again for March 1st (we’re employed by a church and it’s really costly for the church to insure everyone – we have a staff of over 45 but probably about 25 are the ones with insurance) and it looks like we’re also going for a major medical paired with an HSA. A great blessing is that, while the deductible is high for a family (almost $6000), the church will deposit 1/12 of the deductible into the HSA each month! So we will have NO out of pocket expenses this next year which is great! The only thing we may do is keep DH with his pulmonologist who’s not on the plan, but that would only be a few hundred dollars a year – less than we’re paying in copays for meds and visits this past year. I think we’ll be happy with what we’re getting.

  • Wow, after reading these comments I feel really guilty to be so lucky in regards to our health insurace. We live in California and my husband is a teacher, I stay home with our 2 kids. For a family of 4, we pay $168 a month for FULL medical/dental/vision. Its a Blue Cross PPO. We have no deductibles & no co-pays, we only pay for prescription (generic $4, name brand $12). This is a real eye opener to me as I now realize how truly blessed we are.

  • Jessica says:

    F.Y.I on Samaritan:

    For anyone who is trying to get pregnant, my understanding is that Samaritan will not reimburse costs for delivery charges unless you’ve been a member for 18 months. Medi-Share did not have such restrictions (1 month of membership required instead of 18 mos.)

    It’s been about 6 months since I last looked at their policies closely, so it is possible that some revisions have been made.

  • Lori says:

    We have an HSA, too, and we love it, mostly because we had a daughter last year, so we met our $5000 deductible very easily. Then, everything for the rest of the year was FREE! Yea.

  • Kristen says:

    I glanced over at Samaritan Ministries and I was alarmed that, because it is not insurance, it is not regulated by any state board of insurance. That’s a lot of money floating around unregulated. Also, it seems to me it functions somewhat as a Ponzi scheme. I know many people on this board seem happy with it, but I’d be wary. It seems expensive for what you receive at any rate.
    This is a great topic and I’m glad to see all the dialogue
    on a very tricky subject.

  • Erin says:

    I use Altrua Health Share, which is like Samaritan, but it is open to those that cannot sign the statement of belief that Samaritan makes its members sign. Altrua is still a religious based program, and you still need to sign a form saying that you will live a certain way (no smoking, etc.), but it does not stipulate that you have to believe a certain doctrine. I have been more than pleased with them. This is a good option for those people that live healthy moral lives, but would not be able to be accepted in Samaritan. We have the highest deductible, and I plan on also opening up a HSA to cover those costs soon. I pay about $137 a month for myself and four children. My husband receives free insurance through work.

  • shel says:

    We are self employed and have 7 children. We went on ehealthinsurance.com and got a HSA (medical savings) policy through Humana. Ours is less than $400 a month for the family policy, plus we put a certain amount into the health savings account which has tax benefits for small businesses like ours. We chose a high deductible, but it is fine for us because we rarely go to doctors anyway. If your family visits doctors often or has ongoing prescription medication needs, then a high deductible HSA probably wouldn’t be a good option. The website I mentioned has a section to help you choose which kind of policy would be best for your family.

  • Julie says:

    My husband pastors a church and we buy our own health insurance. For the past 2 years, we have had Sure Health. We pay $239 a month for a family of 6. Last year, one of my sons fell and required stitches. They also did a cat scan in the ER. $3400 worth of medical attention. I was responsible for the $100 deductible. Insurance paid every penny because we went to a provider they cover. Definitely, worth looking into!
    Julie @ Kingdom Klipper

  • shel says:

    Re: Maternity costs Also wanted to add to my previous, post, our HSA policy with Humana doesn’t cover routine maternity care, so we use some of the money from our Health Savings Account to cover that. It says the insurance DOES cover complications from pregnancy or with the newborn, though I’ve never had any so I’m not sure how much they cover.

  • Liz W. says:

    We are very fortunate to have insurance through my husband’s employer. We only pay about $175/month for it. Although there were years that my husband satisfied his deductible I had not satisfied mine in 24 years, until 2007. In the span of one year I broke and dislocated my ankle which required 2 surgeries and I also had another minor surgery unrelated to my ankle. Those surgeries totaled over $85,000. My husband also had a brain tumor and had to have surgery. His medical bills were over $70,000. I don’t know what we would have done w/o insurance-a insurance that the hospitals recognized.

  • Julie says:

    When my husband was a youth pastor, the church provided something called Good Samaritan. I’m not sure if this is the same as the Samaritan Ministries you mentioned, but I do know that there were so many exclusions, especially for maternity, that we decided it was cheaper to self-pay for daughter’s birth than to be saddled with tons of bills that didn’t qualify. I wouldn’t do Good Sam again.

  • Ted Pittenger says:

    One of the common concerns expressed about Samaritan Ministries is: “What if we have a major catastrophic illness?” It seems everybody knows someone who has had a quarter million, or half million, or million dollar health need. Or if they don’t know them personally, they know someone, who knows someone.

    First of all, large needs like this are not nearly as common as you might think. Less than 1% of medical needs go above the $100,000 threshold that Samaritan Ministries has set per illness. In our first 10 years of ministry we had fewer than 20 needs that exceeded $100,000. As medical expenses have risen, the needs have been breaking that $100,000 threshold more often. I would say that in the last year we may have had 1 or 2 or 3 needs over $100,000 per month, but this is out of over 400 medical needs per month submitted.

    Several years ago, in anticipation of the rising costs of medical care, we instituted an optional ministry called Save to Share, which addresses needs above $100,000. About 40% of our total membership is enrolled in Save to Share.

    It is also interesting to note that insurance companies have a lifetime cap on the amount that they will help with medical expenses. Samaritan Ministries has no lifetime cap.

    Just thought I would fill in some missing facts. “The truth will set you free!”

    Ted Pittenger Founder & President of Samaritan Ministries International

  • Jaime says:

    We have an HSA plan with Anthem. It has a $6000 deductible, then we are 100% covered after that. Also, all preventative doctor’s visits and test are 100% covered, regardless of the deductible. Our premium is just under $300 for a family of three.

  • Tina says:

    We’ve had Samaritan for 8 years. The only thing we’ve turned in is the birth of our daughter, which they were great about.
    My dad had double bypass heart surgery a couple of years ago. His bills were well over $100,000 and he didn’t have Save to Share (for bills over $100,000). Samaritan helped negotiate with the doctors and hospital, and got the entire bill written off.
    Of course, they don’t cover things like well-baby check-ups and immunizations.
    We’ve been pleased with them.

  • Heidi says:

    If you can afford it, I highly recommend that you keep a policy with extremely good coverage instead of trying to get cheaper insurance. My husband and I are very healthy and we had just one healthy child. Then our second child was born and he has a medical condition (btw, many medical conditions, including the baby’s, are random and unexpected and although rare, really can happen to anyone). His medical care for less than a year is nearing a million dollars and he’s really not even very sick. Without good insurance, we would obviously be in horrible financial shape.

    Just saying that you should not ignore the idea that a family member or yourself will get very sick and need a lot of medical care. Keep that in mind when you are insurance shopping.

  • Sarah G says:

    I used Medi-Share when I worked at a non-profit organization. However, even though I never had medical bills, my monthly premium kept being raised. Also, their customer service was terribly unhelpful, and it took them several weeks before they “found” my file when I decided to cancel. Since then, I’ve used Blue Cross Blue Shield. They have yet to raise their premiums in the 2 years we’ve used them, and their customer service is great!

  • michele says:

    Samaritan Ministries is awesome! We have used them numerous times with no problems at all. Like others have said, it is good to know where you money is really going as you send your share directly to the family in need. I am now covered by insurance through my employer and it is amazing to me how expensive co-pays, etc. can be even with insurance. The price you pay is not expensive when you consider many insurances cover only 80% etc. of hospital stays, surgeries, etc. You have a very low deductible with Samaritan Ministries. I highly recommend them!

  • Lisa says:

    We are a family of 6 and have insurance through my husband’s employer. The rates just went up, again, and we are now currently paying just shy of $150 per WEEK. The insurance itself, Healthnet, is good coverage but it’s expensive, as are the copays. I live in CT where the state has a health plan that they offer but you have to meet certain income guidelines, and we do not.

  • Jen says:

    We are EXTREMELY fortunate in our medical coverage. My husband works for a major hospital in Chicago, and our portion of the premium is $325 per month for a family of three, pre-tax. This reduces our income for tax purposes each year. We have a $20 copay for doctor visits, and $40 for specialists. There is also a co-pay for prescriptions. However, as long as we use his employer’s system of hospitals and health facilities, we have no deductible and 100% coverage for everything beyond the co-pays. This has been a huge blessing.

    We also have $1000 per year ($38 per paycheck, pre-tax) deducted into a Flexible Spending Account. We can use this for all co-pays, over the counter medicines, dental and vision needs.

    When my son was born last year, within a few hours his blood sugar dropped dangerously low. He was in the NICU for 9 days, and I was in the hospital for 5 days post-partum. Thankfully, he recovered, and there are no permanent medical issues. I was shocked when the Explanation of Benefits started arriving from our insurance company. The total billed for both of us was $86,364! The only expense we paid was $40 to the OB/GYN as a co-pay for the entire pregnancy.

    To Wendi, please consider that major medical issues can occur unexpectedly when considering which plan you purchase. Good luck in your search!

  • Jill says:

    I really appreciate this post. We too have looked into many insurance options. We have seriously considered Samaritan’s Ministries and we were about ready to sign up but the one thing that stopped us is since Samaritan’s is not insurance, if you ever want to go back to tradtional insurance and you have had a major problem ( heart, cancer) a group policy can deny you because you have had a ‘lapse in insurance’ and, of course, private insurance would be very expensive after a major medical problem. We decided to stay with my husband’s group plan at this time even tho we do not have any history of major health issues. I am open to change though and it has been helpful to read this post!

  • Karen says:

    For what it’s worth, my husband and I have never had Sameritan, but my parents have. My dad had to have an emergency gall bladder removal while on vacation in Florida, and while it took a little while to be reimbursed, it was eventually all covered. They are now on a plan similair, but with another company.

  • Cindy says:

    We are self-employed and members of Good Samaritan and have been more than pleased with them. We pay $285 a month for a family. When the needs for the month are less than the shares, they will lower the cost that month! That has happened a few times. We have had 3 babies while on Good Samaritan and paid $60 for one and nothing out of pocket for the other two. We did have them with a midwife at a birthing center, but everything was handled so well. Even when we have had needs that were “pre-existing”, they list it as a special need and people have sent money to help along with incredible encouragement and prayers.

  • Kim says:

    This is probably obvious, but insurance rates vary considerably from state to state. A plan someone else has that sounds good might be totally different if you sign up for the exact same plan in your state.
    I agree with the person who said to run from NASE. They are HORRIBLE. We literally lost THOUSANDS of dollars with them. Their premiums are sky-high, and they don’t cover anything. Also, beware of any coverage that has a ceiling (like they’ll pay 80% up to $1,000 for ER visits, for example.) We learned this the hard way. An ER visit in my state cost $2600. Thanks for nothing, NASE.
    We now have Golden Rule, an HSA through United Health, and we LOVE it. We pay $430 a month and have a $3800 deductible. Even when you haven’t met your deductible, they still work with health providers to give you a discount. For us, it’s generally been around 50%, and b/c I also deposit an extra $100 into my HSA every month, I have very rarely had to pay anything out of pocket, despite the fact that I have a 1 year old and a 2 year old who have had the usual litany of well-baby visits and immunizations.
    Also, after weighing the options, we decided to pay OOP for maternity and birth. My OBGYN worked with us, as did the hospital, since we didn’t have maternity. And, even though it wasn’t covered, Golden Rule somehow finagled us over a 50% discount on my baby’s hospital bills. We probably paid $2500 b/c I used my HSA money to pay for almost all of the prenatal care. It kind of drained my HSA, but luckily, we didn’t have any major medical issues otherwise. If we did, we have the savings to cover the $3800 deductible.
    I would definitely recommend this plan, especially if you live in a “bad” health insurance state, like we do, or if you are self-employed and have to go private, like we do.

  • Gale says:

    What a big decision! My hubby is self-employed and we have an HSA- we have a very high deductible and pay OOP for most things from our fund. Through 5 births we have negotiated with the Dr. and the hospital for lower rates. Also- check your bills- ask for an itemized bill- we did not stay at the hospital overnight for our last daughter’s birth- we were at the hospital for approx. 7 hours and when we recieved the bill we were charged for a private room and many items we did not use. It drastically reduced our bill when my husband called to complain.

  • Jen says:

    My husband I had Samaritan Ministries for a short time while we were in the ministry. It did not cover my pregnancy because we got the insurance AFTER I became pregnant. However, at nearly seven months I had my appendix removed and it covered me completely. It was nice having people (the Samaritan community) praying for me and sending me notes of encouragement.

  • Jennifer says:

    We’ve been with Christian Healthcare Ministries for about 2 1/2 years now. I worked with them to cover expenses for my 2nd pregnancy and are now submitting expenses to them for a 3rd. We have been very happy with the costs and coverage. When I quit my job to stay home (hubby is self-employed) I shopped Christian cost-sharing programs (Samaritan, CHM, Medi-Share, etc.), private health insurance, and other programs for self-employed. We found CHM to best meet our needs–especially regarding maternity coverage. They’re not for everyone (pre-existing is not covered), but certainly worth looking into.

  • Conny says:

    We went from active duty military (full medical benefits) to the ministry (zero medical benefits) in 2005. We did join Samaritans Ministries – with some trepidation – but much faith in its biblical approach. I do think there is accountability with the organization – I know we vote on trustees or something to that extent. I also think if they were dishonest, it wouldn’t work! God couldn’t bless the ministry as He has. In fact, we’ve had months where our share was REDUCED because not all the money was allocated to needs. It’s been amazing, especially now that we’ve published 2 needs (one for me having severe anemia & needed hospitalization & blood transfusion – and now I have an ovarian cyst). Highly recommend it!

  • Sarah says:

    We’ve been very happy with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s high deductible plan. We also use an HSA to save for medical expenses. We did use a Dave Ramsey ELP to find this insurance, and we’ve been incredibly happy with her for 2 years now.

  • There are four in our family and we have an HSA through BlueCross BlueShield. We love it! I think part of it has to do with the fact that overall we have been blessed with good health, so it’s not much of a stretch for us to pay for our few doctor visits or checkups out of our HSA account. Our insurance costs a little over $400/month and our deductible is $4,500. Everything is covered at 100% once we reach that deductible.

  • Nancy says:

    Think and pray very carefully about this issue. As a nurse, mom, and patient I have been on a lot of sides of this issue. I have seen families destroyed by health problems. Of course MOST people won’t need catastrophic coverage. And nobody needs it at all…until you do. Some illnesses are like hurricanes and they come with pretty clear warnings and you may be able to prepare somewhat. But there are also earthquake illnesses that have zero warning and can’t be prepared for. So don’t kid yourself and think it couldn’t happen to you.

    While I agree it is a good idea to talk to people and find out about their experiences, remember that is more about investigating a customer service issue. Important but possibly not as important as what is covered, when, for whom, and with what exceptions. Furthermore, what is the company’s ability to make good on promises? While using a company that is fast, polite, and caring is ideal, you FOR SURE want one that is going to be there if you need it. You wouldn’t buy a car with a perfect exterior from a super polite person for cheap UNLESS it gets you where you need to go. Ask lots of questions, get answers in writing, and make sure you find the best match for your particular situation. A single person’s needs are very different from a growing families, or a person with special needs. Good luck.

  • Jessie says:

    my BIL used to sell Ins he has always recommended HSAs, try Anthems HSA with Lumenos $3000 ded, we got a quote for $555/mo for a fam of 4! not too shabby, we will be switching later this year. Best of luck!

  • Maribeth says:

    There are several things to keep in mind, with health insurance:

    1. the time to buy it, is when you’re healthy – if you can afford it
    2. once you have stuff wrong, in most states, private policies that you buy, won’t cover that stuff wrong already.

    Like car insurance, it’s for unexpected/unintended claims, not expected claims. If you’re already pregnant, it’s too late to buy ANY health insurance, except Medicaid.

    If you can’t afford traditional insurance, another NON INSURANCE program that’s been around a while – is Medi-Share (www.medi-share.org). It requires to you be living a Christian lifestyle in order to qualify, though.

  • Tara says:

    We have very good medical insurance through my husband’s employer ($11/wk for family), but there is no dental or vision. I researched online and found the same dental that I had when I worked at a factory, Delta Dental, and I pay 51.84 a month. It covers 2 cleanings/exams a year and then the coverage is 80/20 for fillings, etc. and 50/50 for major, which is the exact coverage I had when my company supplied the insurance. I also found vision insurance for 23.15 per month–Spectera. I have had both of these for over a year and had no issues with either, they cover what they say they will.

  • Teresa says:

    I have a group policy through my husbands work for Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Alabama and I love it. I am not sure how much individual policies cost. They are wonderful to work with though. I have never had a claim not get paid or even have to call them about one. Yes, we have had some major medical and everything was great. I have heard horror stories about dealing with companies. This is my first company I have been through and they are great. They do have individual plans and you don’t have to live in Alabama. We live on the west coast. May be worth looking into.

  • We, too, are members of Samaritan Ministries. We have been for over 5 years, have had 2 babies with it plus a number of other not too big needs. They have been totally met, but more than even that blessing is the blessing of KNOWING you are helping other Christians with YOUR money as you send out your check each month. When it was our turn to be on the receiving end, it was so surprising to be receiving not only the gifts, but the cards and messages saying ‘we’re praying for…’ our specific need! Highly Recommend it! Feel free to email me. And if you do join, you’ll do any of us who are posting here a favor by using our name… 🙂 a discount for the month with a referral. There’s a number of people who have posted so please use one of them!

  • Kristen:

    We have a board of directors who are unpaid, and who oversee the ministry and set our salaries. The monies each month (about $3 Million in bills getting shared every month!) go directly from one family to another. I know my gift goes to another Christian family who needs it because I send it to them with a note or a card, and not to a big office in Nebraska.

    We also are regulated as charities. Our ministry is a 501 (c) (3) charity and files an informational return every year to the IRS and has our finances audited every year by an outside accounting firm. We supply copies of these audited statements to anyone who asks for them.

    Anyone, again, can feel free to email me directly with any questions about Samaritan.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President, Samaritan Ministries International

  • Meg says:

    My family has used Samaritan Ministries for the past 2 years, and we have been very satisfied. We were pregnant within the first 18 months of our membership, and any time during the first 18 months they will cover up to the amount you’ve already paid into the program for maternity. For instance, if you’ve been a member for 10 months when the baby is born and you’re paying the rate for a couple ($240), you will be eligible to have $2400 shared with other families when you send in your bills, and any amount over that would be added to the special prayer needs which allows those who have extra to send you extra if they want to. Since we had a home birth with a midwife that wasn’t very expensive, our entire amount will be shared and we will receive checks from other members that will cover all of the expenses for the birth.
    Even though the previous commenter wasn’t impressed with what you get for what you’re paying, our family has been very impressed. We’re getting almost all the money back that we’ve put into the program just with this first birth, and we are also able to help other families who have needs & can encourage them & pray for them at the same time. Although it isn’t regulated by any outside agency, it’s governed by a board & all regulations are agreed upon by members when they join. We’ve found it to be a great program!

  • Heidi says:

    Thank you MSM for this great discussion. Health insurance certainly isn’t a one size fits all decision.

    I’ve read all the comments and think one thing is missing. A couple people mentioned that traditional insurance companies have a maximum benefit and that is true. For mine it is 2 million dollars per person.

    What was not clear is that these big insurance companies have a discount with all their providers. In my experience (I watch every claim closely) the insurance pays about 20% of the billed amount on average. So if you were billed $10,000, the insurance company pays $2,000 (or whatever), the rest of the bill gets written off and only the $2,000 actually paid gets counted towards your maximum per person. This makes a big difference.

    Just another piece of the puzzle to consider! And it is puzzling!

  • Jeff Brady says:

    I’m looking in Colorado or Wyoming for customers of Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries or Christian Care Medi-Share. These are health insurance alternatives generally offered through Christian churches. If you or someone you know uses one of these services and would be willing to talk, please contact me at jbrady@npr.org.

    Jeff Brady
    NPR reporter

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