Samaritan Ministries: an alternative to health insurance

I’ve posted about Samaritan Ministries in the past, and I can’t say enough good things about them.  I think they have a fantastic system worked out, and if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional health insurance, this might be perfect for you.

I’m still receiving some questions about Samaritan, so thought I’d share the answers here in case anyone else is interested.

How does Samaritan work?

I think I read on your blog that you use Samaritan for your insurance program.  We are facing a substantial rise in our insurance costs and hoped you would give me some info. on it?  We are a family of 8 and are really only interested in major type medical coverage.  One of our boys tends to be accident prone so we definitely need insurance that actually will cover expenses if/when he hurts himself! Thanks for your help.

Samaritan members pay only the first $300 of any eligible medical expense, so it could be just what you’re looking for.  The cost is currently $285/month for a family of any size.  It’s very easy to submit a need, and I have a whole pile of lovely cards with personal messages from members’ payments when Bethany was born.  We even received cards from people who weren’t assigned to send payments.  That’s what you get when you are joined with Christian brethren.  :)

Does Samaritan really work?

My husband is a little hesitant about not having traditional insurance.  Do people actually pay what you what they are supposed to?

When you submit a need, you receive a checklist of who is supposed to send payment and how much.  After a certain amount of time, you send it back to Samaritan.  We have found that most members pay very promptly but if anyone didn’t pay, that share is assigned to a new member and Samaritan deals with the non-paying member.  It’s very easy on your end.
For example, when Bethany was born we were supposed to receive payments from 21 members.  By the end of the month, 19 had paid and I sent my checklist back to Samaritan.  The next month we received a new checklist, and the other 2 payments came from different members.

How much does Samaritan cost?

When I read the paperwork, it said that the monthly amounts don’t change unless the board initiates it.  Has that ever happened?

Yes, it’s happened once or twice since we joined several years ago.  Of course we don’t like to see prices go up, but the increases were moderate, based upon the total amount of needs received, and it’s still far cheaper than if we were to buy traditional health insurance.  Our monthly share has also occasionally been less than what we expected, just because there were fewer needs submitted for that month.

The current price for a family is $285/month, and much less for singles or single parents.  We especially like Samaritan Ministries because they don’t charge per person; in a big family, the “family rate” becomes a really great deal.  I also love that they waive the $300 deductible for homebirths.  While traditional health insurance often penalizes people for choosing to birth at home, Samaritan Ministries seems to recognize that it is both safer and less expensive.

Um…we also like their generous referral program, so if you decide to join up please tell them Kim Coghlan sent you.  Because the only thing nicer than the current price tag of Samaritan coverage is getting it for half price.  If you’re interested, Samaritan will send you an info packet.

More questions?  Look here.  If you don’t find your answer, try me.

Comments

  1. I think all Believers in Christ who value LIFE and do NOT want to have to pay for abortions with the new Obamacare requirements should SWITCH TO SAMARITAN MINISTRIES!! That is what we are doing–if enough of us do this, we could probably even reduce the monthly share amounts—come on people this is the answer to the Obamacare nightmare!!!

  2. Denise Wolfe says:

    We very seldom go to doctors so make very poor use of our very expensive insurance which has bloomed to close to a thousand dollars a month. When a family member is sick and we feel we need more then just a home remedy we often seek the advice of our Nature Path Doctor first. Will Samaritan insurance cover those experiences if I choose to go with natural care instead of going to a MD?
    I really like the idea of helping each other.

  3. Can an employer pay for a member’s shares? I am curious if a program like this could be offered by an employer as an alternative to traditional group insurance. I realize each member would have to be accepted individually but if you own a small, possibly family-run business, can the business cover this cost and still consider it a business deduction like they do with health insurance?

    • Matt, your best bet is to call and ask the company directly. I do think it’s important for members to send the monthly shares directly, as prayer and personal involvement are a big part of what makes Samaritan Ministries so great!
      The shares we send are not tax deductible, an employer could certainly give each employee a raise to compensate for the cost of membership.

  4. Thank you so much for this post, which I found through Google. I just quit a job with great benefits to work for a tiny Christian nonprofit that doesn’t currently offer benefits. So we’ve been researching insurance alternatives, and it looks like we’ll be going with Samaritan. I will definitely use your name for my referral, so you get credit for all this helpful info! :)

  5. Our insurance has gone up yet again, and it’s lousy insurance to begin with. I am very interested in this. I love the idea of helping others, cutting free from big business insurance companies, the personal connection, and the midwife clause! Haha. I didn’t know about the car accident policy . . .

    My husband is deeply skeptical and asked me to look for some negative/neutral reviews. His concerns are 1. not actually having our medical expenses met in a true medical situation where the bills are more than we can handle or 2. having something happen to make us ineligible for insurance (or in the current situation–eligible for insurance we could affordable) like a chronic condition or disability and then have Samaritan Ministries fail. Is this group going to be around for the rest of our lives?

    We are committed Christians and I know some of this will have to be taken on a matter of faith, whatever decision we make, but my husband takes his provider roles seriously. Just wanted to know if you had any comment on any of this.

    • Andrea,
      Switching from a traditional mega-insurance company to Samaritan Ministries *is* a big jump. It’s something that we had talked about for years, but probably wouldn’t have done if Perry’s employer hadn’t presented the option in the place of traditional insurance. But I’m so glad we were nudged into it, and I hate the idea of ever going back!
      To answer your husband’s concerns, there is no guarantee that this company will be around forever, but there’s also no guarantee that the big insurance companies will be around – or that they won’t change dramatically if and when the government gets more heavily involved in healthcare. As they stand, they’re already far from ideal, stable, or affordable, and it seems likely that they’ll only get worse. Samaritan is big and growing, so unless government regulations crush it the future seems bright. :)
      About having needs met, we have had every penny of our own needs met each time we submitted a need, and never had a need over $300 that wasn’t eligible. The rules clearly state what is eligible, and unlike traditional insurance the company is on *your* side. They want to help you, so if something seems ambiguous in the rules they are going to interpret it in the best possible light rather than just trying to get out of paying the bill.
      Our needs have all been under $5,000 so far, but we have personal friends whose needs were much closer to 6 digits (some may be over; I haven’t asked) and their bills were paid in full by Samaritan members as well.

      I think it’s very telling that it is almost impossible to find negative reviews by people who actually participated in Samaritan Ministries. The few negatives you find are either those who never joined and just doubt that it could work, or those who belonged to other medical sharing organizations that were poorly run and assume that Samaritan must be similar.

  6. Hello! I’ve also been looking into healthcare alternatives. My husband and I are not insured either and we are looking to start a family. We are Christians and attend church. I was curious the “ins and outs” of maternity. After your first visit, do you request a global fee and then use that for the remainder of your checkups, hospital stay, etc up unil the birth and possibily after? If we have to pay out of pocket first at the full price, is that where the need it met afterward with other members? Is maternity one incident, therefore making it $300 where we would pay and then the gifting would start? It honestly sounds great! Another question I have is that we do attend church regularly (almost every week). We attend a very large church in Dallas and are not really “known.” I’m not part of a small group and woud like to be. I’m asking because I don’t really know anyone that could keep me accountable, though I am. Any thoughts on this? This sounds great! Thank you and look forward to hearing from you!
    Blessings!

    • Kristy,
      For specific questions like this, I really recommend calling Samaritan. They’re friendly and knowledgeable, and you can count on them to give you the right answer. I’ll just be guessing if your situation is different than mine. :)
      My midwife does have a total fee plus a few extras (lab work and birth pool supplies are separate). I just ask her to add the extras to the total and bill me at once to make it simpler, but doing it separately would work too. She offers a discount if we pay before the baby arrives and we can’t cover that out of pocket, so Samaritan allows us to share this need ahead of time. Doing this saves money for everyone! It still counts as just one need, so the $300 minimum only applies once. If you have a homebirth, the minimum is waived.
      There are some limitations on the amount that you can submit for maternity if you are a new member – be sure to check that out and plan accordingly.
      About church – if your church has a pastor or elder who will verify that you attend 3 out of 4 weeks and are a member in good standing, that should be sufficient to get enrolled. If nobody keeps track of attendance or the elders don’t know you well enough to make an educated guess, maybe you’ll need to create some personal ties there. Joining a small group sounds like a move in the right direction.
      I’m happy to answer other questions if I can, but again you might get better answers straight from Samaritan. I can tell you it has worked beautifully for us with all 4 children we’ve had since we joined 6 years ago, and every penny of our midwife bills has been paid by Samaritan members.

  7. I have a question. My husband has type 2 diabetes and he only takes a pill. So IF he were to have some illness in 3 or 4 years such as kidney failure would that be considered pre-existing even though there is no kidney issues now? Or how about if he loses the rest of his weight and is able to stop the pills altogether and still have kidney issues (or anything else that can be blamed on diabetes)?

  8. I have completely had it with insurance company greed. Or policy has gone up for the last time and Monday we will be starting the process to sign up with Samaritan.

  9. Oops! Sorry! I posted before I had all the facts. WA state was resolved.

  10. The WA State Insurance Commission has put out a Cease and Desist order on Samaritan Ministries Internation in May 2011.

  11. Kathryn says:

    I have a question too–and maybe a silly one–do you have to be religious to participate? My husband and I are not Christian, and do have actual health insurance, but I would love to have home birth covered and this sounds like it could be a viable option for that, are there religious requirements, or any sort of faith statement to sign?

    thanks!

    • Kathryn,
      You do have to be Christian; in fact, you have to be a member in good standing, and your pastor has to verify that you attend at least 3 times/month.
      There may be other similar sharing programs that are not Christian in nature, so keep looking if you think it might be a good solution for your household.

  12. I LOVE this website! I really love that the Exec. VP from Samaritan Ministries jumps in to answer questions directly :) I just got off the phone with Samaritan Ministries, and the gentleman who took my call was very helpful. My husband and I are uninsured at the moment and are exploring our options for some sort of medical coverage. The cost of traditional health insurance quotes has gone up over $100 in the last year alone for us, and we are both under 30 with no medical changes for us in the last year.
    The biggest reason we are looking for coverage is to start a family! I was wondering if “non-standard” births are covered – having a midwife involved, water births, home births, etc. In looking at traditional health insurance, the optional maternity coverage uses the language “standard delivery including cesarean sections” are covered. Many of the hospitals in my area do offer the services of a midwife and I guess what I would consider “non-standard” delivery options.
    I’m really grateful I stumbled across your website! Thank you!

    • Jackie,
      Did they answer all your questions about childbirth? I’ve had homebirths with midwives and every penny has been provided for us by other Samaritan members.

      • The guy I spoke with did actually. I called because I was curious about how strict their eligibity guidelines were. My husband is a smoker. I know that until he really feels convicted about it, he’s not going to quit. But I wanted to ask just in case there were provisions for tobacco users. I didn’t actually think of the pregnancy question until after and you answered it! Thank you :)

  13. Glynn:

    First, I’m not a tax professional, and don’t play one on TV. My understanding of gifts and taxes is that gifts are taxable only to the *giver* of the gift, and never to the receiver. The giver is only liable for taxes on gifts in excess of $13,000 (at least that’s the last figure I saw).

    The monies received enabling members to pay their medical bills are not taxable. If any of our members were ever audited, and it was claimed they were, we would defend them in the audit. Up to this point, no IRS agent has been willing to claim these gifts were taxable income after we’ve pushed back.

    Thanks for the question!

    James Lansberry
    Executive Vice President
    Samaritan Ministries International

    • Thank you, Mr. Lansberry. I was quietly hoping you would see this thread and jump in with an answer. I appreciate your dedication to Samaritan!

  14. Glynn Pennington says:

    If you are on the receiving end of the “shares” is this money taxable as a gift?
    Thank you,

  15. Save to Share money comes from other members just like in standard needs, Kim. We have only a few S2S needs every quarter right now, because 99% of medical needs stay under $200,000.

    If someone has a save to share need they’ll get checks from members across the country. At one point we processed the funds here at the office, but we have adjusted things to make a better system work and to make it more personal.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President
    Samaritan Ministries International

  16. Hi! I just found out about this program tonite thru a friend. It sounds really interesting and that it might fit our needs. My concern is the $250,000 limit. Say we have a major medical issue and it reaches over the $250,000 limit. If I join the save to share plan, it sais we would have to set aside an extra $266 per year (it’s just my husband and I). How do I know how many other members have joined this plan? Because say if we would need an extra $100,000 it would take about 375 people to send us their $266 they also saved for the year. So we would get 375 checks in the mail? And is that a mandatory thing or is it voluntary they send it? Sorry, I might have this figuring all wrong, but it is important for us that we would be covered properly for the “unexpected”! Any information would be much appreciated! Thank-you!! Ingrid

    • Ingrid,
      You can always call Samaritan when you have questions. They’re very friendly and eager to help, and they know their stuff.
      In the meantime, I’ll tell you what I know:
      Save to Share seems to work very well. We’re members, but have never had a very large need. Nearly every month we are instructed to use a small portion of our Save to Share fund, though it is never entirely depleted. This would seem to indicate that it has many participants and is well funded.
      I don’t remember exactly how it works, but I think I read that funds for Save to Share needs are passed through the main office so that the recipient gets one large payment rather than hundreds of smaller ones.
      And regarding your last question, sending money is always voluntary, but members who don’t pay will be deactivated and their share will be assigned to another member, so the need is still filled. But with Save to Share you don’t have to worry about keeping track of who didn’t send money since (I think) yours comes right from headquarters.

  17. Hi John:

    Sorry to take so long to see this!

    We do put that disclaimer in all our materials because we are, you’re right, not insurance, and participation is voluntary. Insurance companies can only “guarantee” to pay your bills because of state regulation.

    Irrespective of the disclaimer, we’re currently sharing about $3,800,000 in medical bills every month, and each month multiple needs exceed $100,000 as a single need. Our largest need ever was about $700,000, which was a discounted amount from over $1.5M.

    We’re always glad to share our reference list with people who inquire, and have a member who’s been through the need process in every state, and in most area codes, who are willing to take calls from prospective members so you could talk to somebody like Kim who’s not paid to say nice things like I am.

    I’d be glad to answer any other questions you have as well.

    James Lansberry
    Executive Vice President
    Samaritan Ministries International
    SMI member since 1996

  18. I’d like to hear about how much their bills were. Second, I’d encourage anyone to read this disclaimer:

    WARNING: This publication is not issued by an insurance company, nor is it offered through an
    insurance company. Whether anyone chooses to send you money to assist you with your medical
    bills will be totally voluntary. This publication should never be considered as a substitute for an insur-
    ance policy. Whether you receive any money for medical expenses, or whether or not this publica-
    tion continues to operate, you will always remain liable for any unpaid bills.

  19. I would highly encourage anyone who is planning on joining Samaritan Ministries to look at the fine print and find out what happens to people who really get sick. You don’t want to wait until your wife’s sick to find these things out.

  20. lilmamamia says:

    I hope this question doesn’t sound shallow, but I was curious are the shares sent to other members tax deductible?

  21. Hello!
    My husband and I have been looking into Samaritan Ministries as an alternative to health insurance. We had a question about how it works with regard to smaller amounts. Generally, our bill is less than $300. We currently have 2 children, and if we take them in for illness, it just doesn’t end up being that much. So we would pay their bills under $300 and the monthly rate? Also, does this work with medications too, or is that separate? It sounds like a good idea, but with the monthly rate, the bills under $300 and medications, we don’t want to pay more than we already are.
    Any info would be great.
    Thanks!
    Jenny

    • Jenny,
      You would pay any bills under $300, unless they’re all connected to a single incident that totals over $300. The reasoning is that a family should either be able to cover smaller bills, or they should have a local network in place to help with very small needs (often family or church). If you do routine checkups, etc. then Samaritan might not be a good choice for your family, although it’s still far less expensive than a traditional insurance policy.
      They do have a discount prescription card, though I can’t say how well it works since we’ve only used it once in all our years.

  22. Although my husband and I currently have very good insurance from my employer, we have been keeping our eyes open for some alternatives for the time when I will want to stay home with our children. (His insurance options are fairly expensive and not great as far as benefits.) My biggest question about this is how long after the procedure or hospital visit does it take to start receiving share donations from other members if you send in your bills right away? Do most medical facilities allow 2-3 months for payment before they start charging you late fees? I haven’t ever had to deal with personal payment of medical bills so I’m just curious about how that works.

  23. So do members of SMI often combine this with a really high-deductible (100K+) insurance plan? I’m curious as to what you do to plan for the possibility of a major catastrophe (one that costs more than the 100K limit)? Also, are there companies that have plans with that high of a deductible that you know of? Thanks.

    • Samaritan offers an optional separate plan called Save-to-Share which covers needs from $100k-$1 million. To take part in this plan, we set aside $399/year and send it to members as needs arise. The additional amount (if any for that month) is combined with your regular monthly share. That’s probably as clear as mud, isn’t it? They explain it more clearly near the bottom of this page.

  24. Mandy & Joshua Reynvaan says:

    Somehow the e-mail you send me about your health insurance, along with the link to download an application got deleted. Could you please send it again. Sorry for losing it. Mandy Reynvaan

  25. Mandy & Joshua Reynvaan says:

    We are interested in your health insurance program. How can we join Samaritan Ministries,and participate in it. Thank you very much. Mandy Reynvaan.

  26. Kim:

    I think you’re undercounting. You could get a few hundred checks for a need that approached $100,000, though having had a few large needs for my family the bookwork is a burden, but a joyful one (more checks means more cards!).

    Peter: you’re right about it being more efficient to do things differently. But that word always reminds me of an old Steak N Shake commercial. Split screen, on one side a shake being made from scratch, starting with ice cream and a blender–on the other side an assembly line of milkshakes from a machine.

    Tagline: “Their way is more efficient, but when is the last time you took a drink of a milk shake and said, ‘mmm. That tastes efficient’”

    Ministry is often inefficient, because it is personal. Samaritan isn’t *just* about getting the bills paid, but about the body of Christ *miinistering* to one another.

    Also, you’d be surprised how long it takes a lot of insurance companies to pay their bills, and having the individual member engaged in the health care costs is also and important part of recognizing objective value of the service.

    Thanks for the comment, and feel free to contact Samaritan with more questions.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President
    Samaritan Ministries International

    • Mr. Lansberry,
      I stand corrected. I was hasty in my math. But I do agree with you that the checklist is a great blessing, and we have very much enjoyed receiving cards and gifts directly from other members rather than from a central office. A list of a few hundred would mean a few hundred other families praying for our need as well.

  27. Peter Locke says:

    I’m trying to get my mind around the concept of individual members sending their monthly contribution to a person (family) with a need. That may work OK for smaller needs, but that checklist is going to get pretty long for the big operation. It seems that it would be more ‘efficient’ to pool all the contributions, and then pay the needs. Also, the time lapse is about the same as appears to be the case with insurance. Less paperwork for the provider, but just as long a wait.
    Seems like the basic concept is much like a mutual health insurance company where the subscribers actually take an interest. In addition, there seems to be some additional helpful factor that keeps the State out of the equation.
    Of coarse, that leads to the question of why the State became involved in the first place. I can guess the answer, and it’s not prettyl

    • More efficient, perhaps, but we think a big benefit is receiving contributions, prayers, notes and cards directly from members. This also helps keep the ministry itself very transparent, as members know exactly where their contributions are going.
      And really, the checklist isn’t cumbersome. It’s not a complete report or extensive bookkeeping of any sort; just an alphabetized checklist. It’s not likely that a member will have a checklist of more than 30-50 members even for the maximum bill of $100K. Needs over $100K are dealt with differently, and the funds do go to Samaritan Ministries first for just the reason you stated.

  28. missy parris says:

    I couldn’t believe the post on SMI. My husband and I have been trying to find out as much as we can about it. He is in full time ministry at our church and with our age the policy we have keeps going up up and up so that we really can’t afford it not to mention the benefits are not so good. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions and since you have several little ones I thought you may have an answer. We have always taken our babies in for the routine well exams( our insurance does not pay for the older ones) and we also have the shots they say to have. I knnow many don’t but my question is this. Would that be something to send in since it would be over the $300 most likely. And one more thing if say four or five kids get the same thing say bronchitis or maybe several with congestion and ear infections. And then you have a combined whopper of a bill do you send that in? Sorry so many questions but I just found it to be an answer to prayer with us just really wondering if this is right for us. We will probably be looking into this for sure in July. #6 is coming is June via C-section so we have to keep what we have for now. Do we put your name or your husbands name down for a refer. Thanks and I really enjoy your blog. I enjoy the mix of humor and serious posts. Hope you and your family are enjoying the new year. Missy in TN

  29. I appreciate your input, Mr. Lansbury. I’ll be more mindful of the terminology and edit the post accordingly.
    Thank you for all that you do. I really do love being a part of Samaritan Ministries!

  30. maryjo,
    You send your monthly payment directly to another member. Each month you receive a page telling you where to send your share and why so that you can pray for the recipient and include a note with your payment.
    You also receive a list of additional needs that were not covered for one reason or another (often pre-existing condtions). We sometimes choose to send a bit extra directly to one of these members, but that part is totally voluntary.

  31. We are happy with our current insurance coverage, but Samaritan Ministries sounds like a great alternative. If we ever switch to them, I’ll be sure to give your name as a referral! Thanks for sharing.

  32. Hi Kim:

    Thanks for the plug!

    I do want to add that while you’re using terms like “cover” and “claim” in your description of us, we are not an insurance company, and that’s an important distinction. Other health care sharing ministries have been accused of selling insurance without a license, and we make careful efforts to distinguish ourselves from insurance.

    Insurance, because it is state regulated, is allowed to make guarantees that are are not. We also are faith-based and coordinate ministry from member to member–there is not a pool of funds from which needs are reimbursed–the gifts come as needed from other members.

    So as you speak of SMI in the future, please stay away from legal “Terms of art” related to insurance.

    And yes, if someone else is reading this and you inquire about Samaritan, please do give us Kim’s name! We like to know where you heard about us.

    James Lansberry
    Vice President
    Samaritan Minsitries

    • Have any tax professionals or attorneys suggested an approach to allow members a tax deduction for member to member support?

  33. We were members of Samaritain Ministries when hubby did not have health insurance and it was great. We did have 2 babies over that time at home and it worked well. I loved the cards of encouragement that we received, that was a blessing.
    When hubby changed jobs his company offered great insurance so we went with it. The only thing I did not like was that it never covered them small visits, it’s more like a major medical plan than regular insurance. It never became a major problem for us because we did not go to the doctor’s unless we had to which was rare but if someone had to go the visits must be paid out of your pocket like you do not have insurance. And sometimes that was tough with also paying your “share”. If we ever do not have insurance we would join Samaritian Ministries again, it is a great alternative if you do not have health insurance.

  34. can you explanin what you mean by people send payments? are you required to send payments in addition to your monthly payment? if so how much?

  35. Lori,
    They have a basic pre-existing need policy. From the FAQ:
    Samaritan does not “publish needs for conditions that exist prior to membership and have never been cured, or for most congenital conditions.”
    People with pre-existing conditions can join and have other needs published as long as the need is not related to the pre-existing condition.
    They also don’t cover injuries from auto accidents since this coverage is very inexpensive with your auto liablility – less than$10/month, I think.

  36. Yes, I was wondering what the “requirements’ are health-wise? What if you have diabetes, or high blood pressure, or have had cancer, etc. (none of these in my family thus far, but I know families this would affect)?

    It sounds great – just curious about the details (which means I should probably check it out myself ;) thanks~
    Lori

  37. This is very interesting, I don’t think it would work for us because we have two children with health issues and so does my husband but this is great information to pass on to others.

  38. Thanks for sharing this. We personally don’t have this as my husband has really good health insurance through his employment. However, we know several of the men that work and Samaritan and they really work hard at making this an affordable alternative.

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