Thursday, June 27, 2013

Good bye health care, hello health share!


"Health care, premiums, co-pays, deductibles, benefits, in network, out of network, co-insurance"....this was all foreign language to me a few years ago.  I honestly didn't give a lot of thought into health insurance and how it worked.  But boy have my eyes been open to it within the last year.  Why?  Because there have been so many changes to health care and it's making a huge impact, or should I say indent, in peoples wallets.  I'm still bitter over a $575 stool sample for my daughter...which I had to pay completely out of pocket.  The hospital was "in network" but the lab they use is "out of network".  This, along with some other situations, was a huge wake up call to me...I needed to do my homework and get a clue on how insurance worked.

 I was very naïve about how insurance worked and the reality is I never took the time to read through the information or do my research.  But as time went on, I did start to get smarter with the "game" I had to play for me and my families health coverage.  I learned the importance of making phone calls and asking the right questions.  Phyllis and I were on a first name basis!!  She was the gal I spoke to with our insurance company whenever I had questions....and I had a lot!! 

I shared a few weeks ago about my husband starting a new job, which meant a new health insurance plan.  I was beyond excited to FINALLY have better insurance...but was I ever in for a shock when I realized what our new insurance entailed.  I honestly had no idea how GOOD of insurance we actually had in comparison to the new plan.  All those times I had put down our insurance, griped and complained to others....I would take it all back if we could have that plan again. 

 When we realized having health coverage through my husband's new employer meant a $1200/ monthly premium deducted from his paycheck and a $3500 per person/$7000 per family annual deductible...I wasn't naïve anymore....I knew exactly what this meant for our family.   It meant NO insurance coverage UNLESS we had some catastrophic situation.  It meant paying out thousands upon thousands of dollars to a large corporation...for company bonuses, large executive desks, nice leather chairs and fancy cars.   All my money going into a big massive pot.  I just felt sick inside thinking this was our only option.

But thankfully I put my ability to research to good use, I started talking to people, asking questions and searching out alternative options, which led me to a Christian health share ministry....

Their slogan caught my attention: "Sick of Insurance? Come join us".  Heck yes I was sick of insurance!

Samaritan Ministries is a Biblical, non-insurance approach to health care needs.  With the verse Galatians 6:2 as their example, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

So how exactly does this non-insurance program work?  Here is an explanation from their website:

Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Samaritan Ministries uses a database that randomly matches Shares to Needs, so that the Sharing is coordinated and Shares go to the appropriate members with Needs.

Here’s how the Need Process works in a little more detail:

Samaritan Ministries publishes a monthly newsletter mailing that reports the total Shares and Needs and includes an individualized Share Notice for each member household. The Share Notice tells each household how to pray for a specific member with a Need and what his address is, so the Share can be sent to him. Typically less than 10 percent of the members have a Need in a given month and are receiving Shares."

When a member has a health care “Need” he receives health care treatment from a provider of his choice, collects the bills, and sends them to Samaritan Ministries. Samaritan Ministries verifies that the Need meets the Guidelines. Then, in the monthly newsletter mailing, Samaritan Ministries directs some members to send their Shares to the member with the Need. The member with the need receives the shares to pay his health care bills.

With more than 24,000 member households participating in the ministry, there is about $6.5 million available each month to meet health care needs.  How exciting to know my money is going directly to families in need...I will be writing my monthly check with a huge smile!! 

Membership Type      Monthly Share

Singles                          $165
Couples                         $315
Single-Parent Family    $230
Two-Parent Family       $370

A few additional things to know:

· 11 months out of the year you pay your monthly "share" amount, which in our case is $370, to a different family each month who has medical needs.  In addition to sending a check, you can include a card with verses, prayers, or words of encouragement. 

· The remaining month (your renewal month) you send your "share" amount to the home office to help with administrative fees/costs. (When you first join you send your share to the home office your first 2-3 months of being a member and then the 11/1 plan goes into effect).

· There is a one time, $200 membership fee, which also helps at the administrative level.  

· Medical expenses must be greater than $300 to be considered a "burden" that are publishable.

· You must have your pastor or a person you are accountable to, sign the form, acknowledging that you attend church regularly and abstain from things that are not honoring to the Lord.

· Any discounts, write-offs, deductions that you are able to receive due to being non-insured and paying out of pocket all get applied toward your first $300 responsibility.  For example, you have a visit to the ER which results in a $1200 bill.  You negotiate with the hospital and they give you a $200 discount.  That $200 gets applied toward your $300 you have to pay out of pocket.  Now you only have to pay $100 out of pocket and the remaining $900 is eligible for other members to help pay.

· If you have 4 or more eligible medical expenses in a year, then even the first $300 is able to be covered by other members. 

· There are some obvious things that are not eligible for sharing: abortions, cosmetic surgeries like a breast reduction or implants, as well as preexisting diseases or illnesses.
· When you have a medical need, you are given a check-off list of those you should be receiving a check from.  This is how they keep track and keep everyone accountable to their monthly "share".  So if you are not doing your part of giving, you will not get to be on the receiving end when you have medical expenses.

· There is a $250,000 per incident, per person maximum unless you choose to participate in the Save to Share program.  In that case you set aside a specific dollar amount per year, for a family that is $399.   When others who are apart of this program have medical expenses that surpass the $250,000 limit you are called upon to help them out and vice versa if you are in need.

You can learn more on their website or by requesting an information packet! 

They offer a great referral system so if you do your research and discover Samaritans Ministries to be a good fit for your family... I would be so appreciative if you would let them know Andrea Webb sent you!!
No matter what your family chooses for health care, make sure you know and understand how it works.  What is your monthly premium?  What is your individual/family deductible amount?  Typically you must pay the entire deductible BEFORE your insurance will pay anything out towards medical expenses.  Make sure you know who is "in network" for doctors, clinics, and labs...otherwise you will be paying out a whole lot more.  Don't be afraid to call your insurance company and ask questions, in advance, if possible.  Don't ever assume! 
I look forward to sharing more along the way about our experiences with Samaritan Ministries!!  



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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Two empty seats

As I sat in church today, I was very aware of two empty seats next to me.  Of course there were other empty seats throughout the church...but I was hopeful that the seats next to me would be occupied by someone.  Yet they sat empty the entire service.  Several times throughout the church service I found myself turning to glance toward the back of the room...maybe, just maybe they'd come. 
All of this got me thinking about church.  What's the big deal with it anyway?  Why do I care so much that those 2 chairs not remain empty.  I am such an advocate for Christians being apart of a bigger family of believers for many reasons and wanted to share some things on my heart.

As I child my mom took us every week to church.  I can still remember certain Sunday school teachers, specific songs, memorizing bible verses, the church Christmas play, the annual church pie auction, and as I got older, weekly youth group, summer camps, ski trips, and beach retreats.  In fact I gave my heart to the Lord, at age 13, during a youth summer camp.  I went as a newborn baby, a young elementary child, a pip squeak junior higher, a grungy dressing high school student, a busy college student, a single adult, a married person, and now as a mother who takes her own children to church.

No matter how busy my life was or is, church has always been an absolute priority!  Why?  Because I know it's a small sacrifice that reaps huge rewards.  There has been tremendous blessing in my life, my marriage, and my children's lives as a result.  It's brought greater growth in my walk with the Lord, positive fellowship, & powerful corporate worship.  It's an atmosphere for encouragement, repentance, being refueled, equipped, challenged, accountability and blessing!  

Going to church is not a religious act.  It's not just something I do so I can check it off my to-do list.  It's not about a big building, fancy programs, or putting on the appearance that you're completely put together.  Church is made up of people who don't have it all figured out, who each have their own struggles, who have imperfections, difficult challenges, kids who misbehave, and arguments with their spouses.  It's filled with old and young, rich and poor, single, married, and divorced.  There are those sitting in the chairs who have walked with the Lord for a very long time while others sit there just beginning their journey of faith. 
I've known people to view church as a place full of hypocrites who cast doubt there are those who get caught up in being "religious" which brings with it condemnation, judgment, and an "I'm better than you" attitude.  But this is no different then the Pharisees Jesus encountered during his life here on earth.  It's also no different than attitudes you may encounter in your high school, your work place, or even going to the mall.  Those actions and attitudes are there whether someone claims to be a Christian or not.  It spreads across the entire race of humanity since the beginning when sin entered this world...that need to exalt ourselves, being full of pride, arrogance, and casting judgment...but when God truly grabs ahold of a persons life in a real out!!!
Bottom is about individuals gathering together, no matter their gender, race, social status, job status, or income...why?  Because they are all in need of a savior.  Church is filled with sinners saved by God's grace....those who have come to experience forgiveness and who put their trust and hope in their creator.  Church is about the strengthening of our relationship both with God and with people!!  It's about sacrificing our plans, our time, and our agenda before the Lord.  It's a way of life, a habit, a discipline, a priority.  It's about giving of our time, talents, gifting's, and callings on our life to impact the lives of others.  It's about the different parts of the body of Christ coming together in order to be effective for God's Kingdom.  We are part of something so much bigger than just our local church.   
So what is to be done about those empty seats?  Or those loved ones who continue to not walk in the doors?   Don't give up!  Trust them over to the Lord.  Keep on praying that those empty seats are one day occupied!
And if you are reading this and you currently are not attending church...perhaps you are the one someone else has invited...I encourage you to go check church out for yourself.  You will be so blessed if you do!  Don't choose based on the nicest church, the biggest building, or the most popular...base it on 1) how welcome you feel, 2) how people take the time to notice you and introduce themselves 3) A pastor who speaks the truth of scripture at your level and in very relatable way!! 4) A church body who will invite you in and accept you just as you are! 5) A church that loves kids and it is evident!  6) A church who will support and encourage you in building a strong and healthy marriage.  7) A church who cares about it's community.  8) A church with worship that edifies your soul and moves you closer to the Lord.  9) A church who believes in the importance of fellowshipping and spending time with each other outside of a Sunday service. 10) and most importantly, a church that shares weekly the gospel message of Jesus and gives people the opportunity to repent from sin and accept Him into their hearts!!

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