health insurance

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but health insurance is expensive!  The never-ending upward spiral of costs seems to grow by the minute.  There are many factors at play in the cost increases.  Medicines and medical procedures are becoming more advanced, and more effective.  Medical professionals want more income.  Patients demand more tests, more time, and are more willing to sue when things go wrong.  Inflation takes it’s toll on everything and health care is not immune.  All of this has a price, of course, and the price is increased premiums.

But health insurance has value.  When you need it, you’re really glad you have it.  It can help you pay for doctor visits, hospital visits, and prescriptions, among other things.  But the increasing cost has often made me wonder if it is worth it.  Am I getting out of my health plan, on average, as much as I’m putting into it?  Would I be better off canceling the insurance and paying for all my medical expenses out-of-pocket?

Last year our health insurance company announced that our premiums would be going up.  This was about the tenth year in a row my premiums had increased, and it was the last straw for me.  I couldn’t allow premiums to keep increasing while coverage kept decreasing.

I dropped my coverage, which made the HR manager at my company flip her wig, and I joined a medical sharing organization called Samaritan Ministries.  It’s a group of like-minded people who agree to share each others’ medical bills.  Each month I get a letter from the main office giving me a brief description of another member who had a medical need this month, and I send my share directly to that member.

For the system to work, every member has to send their share every month.  Miss one month and you’re out.  But I don’t mind one bit.  Our share is less than half what our premium would have been if we had stayed with the insurance.  The rest of the saving goes into our “Medical” bucket, to be used for emergencies or office visits.

Yes, we have to pay cash for office visits.  But we get discounts because the office gets it’s money right away and the staff doesn’t have to mess with insurance paperwork.  The discounts, combined with a share that’s much lower than insurance premiums, means we save quite a bit every month, and that money sits in my account earning interest.

Medical sharing probably isn’t for everyone.  In fact, we probably wouldn’t have joined if our insurance hadn’t gotten out of hand.  Giving up a sure thing to depend on the faithfulness of other people is a big step.  Nevertheless, if you are fed up with the current state of health insurance, or if you are intrigued by the concept of medical sharing, you would do well to check out Samaritan Ministries.  Find them online at http://www.samaritanministries.org/  And tell them Brian sent you.

This article originally appeared in the August 13, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

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