(The following is a transcription from a video Wes Strunk and I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
If you are trying to decide between Medi-Share (CCM) or Samaritan Ministries for your Christian health sharing ministry, then this article for you.
Join Wes Strunk and I as we discuss these two Christian healthcare alternatives.
Wes (a Samaritan member) and I (a Medi-Share member) discuss our experiences with Medi-Share vs Samaritan Health Ministries.
We discuss a list of questions looking further into each of these healthcare alternative options.
So, if you’ve been researching Christian healthcare alternatives, and you just don’t know which is best for you, by the end of this video you should be able to see which health share option best suits you and your family!
We welcome you to view our discussion on YouTube (or you can read through the transcription of the video below):
Bob Lotich: All right. In this video, we’re going to talk about Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share. I am a Medi-Share member and have been for nine years. Wes, my good friend here, has been with Samaritans for … How many years?
Wes Strunk: Six years.
Bob Lotich: Now, Wes is a good friend. I moved to Nashville and every single person in Nashville is a musician. If you haven’t been here, you should come visit because everybody’s a musician-
Wes Strunk: It’s kind of true.
Bob Lotich: … and at church, I ran into Wes. And Wes and his wife are musicians. They are actually on tour right now, so you should go check them out. And they just recorded this really cool EP called Into the Unknown and if you like good worship music, you should definitely check it out. Anyway, so we’ll have links down in the description below so you can check out all their stuff.
Our Personal Experiences With Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share
All right, so Wes and I both get asked a whole bunch of questions about our experience, his with Samaritan, mine with Medi-Share, and so we’re just going to go through a list of these questions and go from there.
What Is The Overall Feeling Of Satisfaction Or Dissatisfaction Over Time?
All right. So, first off you said you’d been with Samaritan for six years. I’ve been on Medi-Share for nine years. So, tell me in general, how you have felt and this is more an overall feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with Samaritan over that time.
Wes Strunk: Yeah, I mean, I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, probably a 9 or a 10. I mean, it’s been an amazing experience and we’ve had, I’m sure we’ll get into a lot of the different needs that we’ve had. But I mean, their name is Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share maybe has a ministry in the name, but it really does feel more like a ministry than anything else. And that’s really why we looked at the financial piece of it as well on how much the cost was versus traditional healthcare and insurance.
But I think for us, it was more, there was a for-profit dynamic to insurance where this really, as we pray, we saw this lined up with our convictions for what we see in scripture. And it has really fulfilled what we thought it would be from the beginning. And it’s rare that you find something … easily, if it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true. But this really ended up lining up with what we thought it would be. It’s been incredible, honestly, every step of the way has been great.
Bob Lotich: Yeah. I mean, in our case, yeah. So, we’ve been with Medi-Share and I wouldn’t classify them as ministry. I mean, even though whatever, it’s kind of a gray area to define a little bit. But they function a lot like insurance. It feels in a lot of ways just like health insurance, but I mean, it’s not. They make it really clear that it is not health insurance. So, I do think that might be a little bit of a different thing.
Now, that said, there are a lot of aspects of it that I think fall into that category. A lot of times when you call Medi-Share, at the end of your phone call they asked to pray with you if anything … any needs you might need. And then you have opportunities to share with other members and things like that. But fundamentally, feels very similar to insurance for me. So, I do think that seems to be the differentiator.
Maternity Expenses And Child Birth Costs And Adoption
All right. Another thing I wanted to ask you is along these lines, you have given birth, yeah, two kids with them, right?
Wes Strunk: I haven’t. My wife has.
Bob Lotich: You haven’t. You haven’t. Okay.
Wes Strunk: She’s incredible. But yeah, we’ve had two kids. We’ve been with Samaritan for six years, we have a three and a half-year-old and a little over a one and a half-year-old.
Bob Lotich: So, how did that go? How were the maternity expenses and all that kind of stuff?
Wes Strunk: Yeah. So, our first had to go to the NICU for a couple of nights and the crazy … what blew my mind was when you have your hospital bills, I think our first baby, total bills where 30 to 35 grand for just hospital fees and triaged maternity care, had to go to NICU for two nights. So, when you see that you’re, “Okay.” That was really our first big need with Samaritan that we had to share. Which is the language that they use. I’m sure Medi-Share have the same thing, sharing it among the members. So, it was like, “Okay, we hope this works.”
And I remember I went to pay, and with self-pay discount, and I mean, I think they slashed 90% off the price. And my understanding from the hospital where we had our son Cade, was it was a flat rate for a self-pay patient. So, even if our bills had been more than that, it still would have been that almost 90% slash rate. So, when we submitted our need, it was covered in full. We didn’t pay anything out of pocket for that, which is pretty incredible.
So, our first experience was “Okay, here’s our bills.” We had an unexpected NICU visit for some jaundice stuff. Everything was completely covered. I mean, literally $0 out of pocket. That’s awesome… appreciate it.
Bob Lotich: That’s awesome. That’s really good. Yeah. So, as you know, we have two kids, similar ages. But both of ours we adopted. And so, we haven’t gone through the actual maternity expenses yet. My wife’s pregnant, so we’ll be doing it soon. But in our case, one of the nice things with the adoption was Medi-Share covered, not the entire cost of adoption, but contributed to it both times, which was nice.
Wes Strunk: That’s amazing.
Bob Lotich: Because adoptions are not cheap. Anybody who has ever done it, knows. And so, that was a nice perk that they had. But I’m really interested to see how Medi-Share handles the whole maternity thing. And yeah, we’ll have to report back on that.
All right. So, talk to me about your monthly premiums. And I know the verbiage might be different, but basically how much you’re paying per month to be part of Samaritans.
Wes Strunk: Yeah. Samaritan uses the word share. So, your monthly share. Ours is $495 and that is for a family. I think they just introduced different coverage tiers. Again, it’s not traditional insurance, but they use that terminology where I think for $300 a month you get a certain deductible, basically I’m using insurance language, but we understand what that means. And then, we do their $495 which is their upper amount. That’s just what we’ve always done.
And that deductible is basically anything over $300 you can share among the people. And then if you receive a discount through being a self-pay patient, they then, if it’s over $300 discount on what you went in to do. So, if it was $1,000 bill and they said, “Okay, self-pay, that’s going to be $500.” Then that basically waives your deductible. And so, you don’t pay any money out of your own pocket.
Bob Lotich: Really? Okay. Okay.
Wes Strunk: So, if it was $1,000 and then you had to pay $1,000, they would cover 700 of that.
Bob Lotich: So, there’s incentive for you to negotiate?
Wes Strunk: Yes.
Bob Lotich: Because that’s pretty much coming directly back to your pocket.
Wes Strunk: Yes. They do have a third … They have a partner, a third party that will actually advocate for you and negotiate for you if you’re not comfortable doing that. I have always done that for Callie and myself. I don’t know if it’s a control thing. I don’t think it is, but I like people, I like talking to people, so I always have to negotiate.
Bob Lotich: Well, you’re good at it.
Wes Strunk: I try to fake it as much as I can. But that’s really helped. So, anytime we’ve actually shared something, we’ve never had to pay any out of pocket.
Bob Lotich: Okay. All right. That’s cool. So, the $300 deductible is per one time, per one event?
Wes Strunk: Yeah. Anything grouped into an event. So, our son had an eczema breakout. He went to the doctor, I think three or four times for different treatments, checking on how to best take care of it. I think the total bills added up to maybe $1,000 with different medications and prescriptions and stuff. Our discount knocked it down some, and we shared that and that was covered in full again. So, no out of pocket expenses.
Bob Lotich: Okay. So, all of that rolls up into one event?
Wes Strunk: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Bob Lotich: All right. Yeah. Okay. So, Medi-Share is very different in that regard. So, they have an annual deductible. And in our case, we opted for the highest level deductible because we pretty much just wanted to self-insure as much as possible. So, we have a $10,000 annual deductible and those go as low as, I think, 1250 I think might be the lowest one. I’m not really sure.
Yeah. And all these details, like anytime you’re watching this video it’s past when we recorded it so they might’ve changed. So, definitely check the details out with both of them, but these are our experiences and our best recollection.
And so, anyway, you can have a much lower deductible. We’ve chosen to have a much higher one and that’s on an annual basis. So, everything before that, we pay out of pocket. So, in our case, we rarely submit stuff to Medi-Share because we don’t cross that deductible very often. And so, most of what we pay is just out of pocket. But if you had a much lower deductible with them, essentially once you cross that annual deductible, everything beyond that is covered.
So, yeah, they’re functioning very different. Which makes it really difficult, I think, to compare because they’re very different animals depending on what your family’s needs are and really your cashflow of your home and how you manage cash a little bit too.
Wes Strunk: What’s your premium with Medi-Share?
Bob Lotich: So, our premium right now with the discount, which I’ll get to in a second, but basically we’re paying $189 a month. And so, that’s for a family of four and I think it’s the same family of four and above, but I’m not really sure. But anyway, definitely cheaper, but we have a really high deductible.
Discounts And Reduced Premiums
Bob Lotich: But the discount, the thing that I just mentioned is one of the things Medi-Share has that is nice is they give you 20% discount off your premiums if you meet certain health guidelines.
And so, once a year you have to submit, I think your weight, your BMI, your waist circumference, maybe blood pressure, something like that. Pretty simple little things that you can get done really quickly. And if you fall into their healthy criteria then they’ll knock off 20% of your bill. So, it’s been a nice perk because it’s just been pretty easy to reduce the bill by 20%.
Wes Strunk: I didn’t know that. And I don’t know how Medi-Share works, but with Samaritan, there’s a certain number of families and there’s a pool of money that has been used to cover the needs of the people in the ministry. So, I’m pretty sure it’s based off Acts2:42-47 where it’s okay, they’re all shared and everything, all their needs are covered. Nobody had any needs. That kind of mentality.
And the great thing about that is they have this large pool of money. I don’t know how many millions it is at this point. But if the needs that have been submitted for a month are met in full and you don’t use all of that money that’s in the pool, they’ll actually discount or prorate your monthly share because that money wasn’t needed because it’s not a for-profit.
So, we’ve had some months where, again, our regular share is $495 for our family, but it’s been $435, $420 because of how that works. And there’s a lot more intricacies to this because what happens when it goes above that amount? Well, if there’s three months where Samaritan Ministries has a … basically, they can’t meet your need in full, they can do 90% because it’s been over the monthly share amount, all pooled together. They’ll actually do a vote on if people want to increase the monthly amount that you pay and share to then cover all these needs in full.
So again, all this is on their site and they do a much better job than I can. But we’ve gone through two votes since we’ve been there on, should we raise the monthly amount to cover the needs? One happened I think, when Obamacare went into effect with just healthcare costs getting higher. And it’s a majority vote. So, the majority of people in Samaritan Ministries said, “Yeah, we want to raise our monthly amount,” they chose to do this. So, that I know when I have an issue it’s going to be covered in full versus be covered 80% of the way. If that makes sense?
Bob Lotich: No. Absolutely.
Wes Strunk: So, that’s kind of how they do it. Which I appreciate that I have input and I’m informed on the situation.
Bob Lotich: Yeah. That’s cool. Yeah. There’ve been a handful of votes with Medi-Share that we’ve been part of. And honestly, none of them have been ones that concerned me enough or just weren’t things that were really on my radar at all. And I think we voted for maybe one or two of them. But anyway.
How Monthly Premiums Work
Yeah. All right. So, next thing up, one of the things I want to talk about are the monthly premiums.
Bob Lotich: So, I think I understand this right but confirm this for me. With Samaritan, you send your monthly premiums to another member?
Wes Strunk: Yes.
Bob Lotich: Is that correct?
Wes Strunk: Yeah. Directly. Yes. Except for one month of the year, you sent it to the office to cover administrative costs. So, every member of Samaritan is helping cover the admin costs once a month and then the other month they’re sent directly to a member.
Bob Lotich: Okay. So, practically speaking, do they email you and give you somebody’s address and you just write them a check or something like that?
Wes Strunk: Yeah. So, you get a newsletter every month in the mail with actually testimonies in the newsletter, as well as prayer requests and the need that you’re supposed to be sending your share to.
Bob Lotich: Gotcha.
Wes Strunk: So, we might get, for you guys, “Come on. Bob and Linda have had their baby and you need to send your $400 to Bob and Linda Lotich at this address and send a note of encouragement.” So, you are supposed to write a handwritten note saying, “Hey, we’re praying for you.”
Paying Large Medical Bills
Wes Strunk: And what’s really cool is when my wife had our son, Cade, he had a heart defect when he was born. And so, he had to have heart surgery at six months.
Bob Lotich: Wow. I didn’t know that.
Wes Strunk: Yeah. Which was, I mean, talking about astronomical costs. It was a lot and basically six figures. And that was covered in full. We didn’t pay a dime for that, which is amazing. And the crazy part was I took all of the checks that I received for the need that we had to the bank to deposit them. And the teller was asking me, “Did you just get married?” I said, “Well, I wish I would receive this when I got married, all these checks.” But I said, “No, my son has to get heart surgery and we’re a part of a ministry where people then help take care of your needs.” She started crying, my bank teller, and she wrote down information and what this ministry was about.
So, it’s just cool to see how God will even move through you depositing some cash for things that … obviously, our son having heart surgery, that’s an emotional experience, but it was really cool to see how people in Samaritan were praying for us and we even got people just encouraging us with, “Hey, we feel like Cade will be completely healed.” I mean, we received 65 checks for that need and it was all with a note of encouragement or prayer or something.
Bob Lotich: That’s really cool.
Wes Strunk: I have them in a little book for Cade when he gets older. I mean, so it’s been really cool to see that experience for us and how they handle it with sending it directly to the member.
What Happens If A Check Is Not Received When You’re With Samaritan Ministries?
Bob Lotich: Yeah. All right. So, not to turn too cynical here, but what happens if somebody doesn’t send the check?
Wes Strunk: Yeah, that’s fair. We’ve had that happen once, but it was an accident. Yeah. I just called the office and they do all the …
Bob Lotich: They take care of it?
Wes Strunk: They take care of everything. So, part of the agreement being a member of Samaritan if you miss any month within a year, you forfeit your membership.
Bob Lotich: Oh, wow. Okay.
Wes Strunk: There’s an accountability, like you’re agreeing to this. And if there’s a mistake made where the person sent the check and it got lost in the mail, they’ll redistribute that share to another family and then have the family that had it lost in the mail, if it wasn’t rectified for what I needed, sent to a different need. So, there’s accountability there. They handle all of that. I think I made one phone call and they had already redirected the share that I was missing to me.
And it’s usually about a six … So, when you get a need or have a need, it’s about a 60 day turn around before you get checks come in the mail to cover that, if that makes sense. I don’t know how Medi-Share is, but that’s usually a 60 to 90 days is the turn around time.
Disbursement Of Funds Through Medi-Share
Bob Lotich: Okay. Yeah. So, Medi-Share is very, very different just in terms of, we just send the money directly to … I mean, technically it’s not to Medi-Share, it’s to a credit union account that we have that Medi-Share has a power of attorney over. So, we deposit it into this account, we mail it to this check and honestly, I’ve never even seen the account. Other than opening it, I haven’t looked at it ever since because I know it’s not my money. Even though my name’s on the account.
And so anyways, so that money gets sent there and Medi-Share takes care of everything else. And so, there’s just not really any of that at all. And now I do know that there is a newsletter that goes out where they talk about the people’s needs. And I know some people send letters and stuff. But I feel like you’re probably getting a lot more in a case like this.
How The Medical Billing Works
All right. And, okay, so this is one thing, in terms of sending the bill to the health plan, so whether that’s Medi-Share or Samaritan, how does Samaritan handle that?
So, I’m assuming, I mean, you said self-pay. So, if you go to the doctor’s office, they’re not going to bill Samaritan, right?
Wes Strunk: No.
Bob Lotich: Okay. Because you’re going to self-pay and then you’re going to take care of that.
Wes Strunk: Exactly, yeah. So, it’s basically like a refund. So, you go in there and that’s why they had an advocacy group for you if you need it. But I go in representing my family, work out an agreement or they give me a standard self-pay discount, which is usually crazy. And then I’ll take that. And basically, as a reimbursement, submit that need. And whenever I’ve done it, I’ve said, “Hey, I’m part of the Christian Health Share Ministry that shares the needs of people in the ministry. So, I’ll actually pay this in cash, in full, but I need it in a 90 to 120-day window.” That’s what I say, even though 60 to 90 days for Samaritan.
And I have never had … I had one hospital give me a little bit of push back, but I talked to a person high enough in it, where, they just want money. And if they’re going to get it, then they’re fine with whatever, if it’s a four-month delay, that’s not a big deal to them. So, that’s how it’s handled.
Bob Lotich: Gotcha.
Wes Strunk: You’re kind of representing yourself and you can bring them in if you need help.
Bob Lotich: Gotcha. All right. So, Medi-Share is … that happens occasionally, but generally speaking, if you go with an in-network doctor at Medi-Share, those network doctor’s offices typically will send their bill directly to Medi-Share. And it’s not always the case. We’ve run into some where they don’t. And it is an education thing where not all of these offices are aware yet and they don’t really understand ministry or whatever. But in many cases, they will actually bill Medi-Share for us. So, it’s very similar to insurance in that regard, where it’s just out of our hands. We go to a doctor’s office, hand them our card, they bill it. Sometimes they look at us like, “What’s this?” And then we’ll explain. They’re part of the PCHS network, I think that’s what the acronym is. And so, any network doctors in there, in theory, they should understand Medi-Share and it’s not always the case. But a lot of times it can function really similar to insurance where you hand them your card, they bill them, and you don’t have to do anything.
But if you use an out of network doctor, which we do quite often, a lot of times we do it really similar where we will be self-pay, we’ll say, “We’re just going to do self-pay,” and then we’ll take that bill ourselves and submit it to Medi-Share from there.
So yeah, definitely some major differences as we’re going through this, on how all these things, these two programs differ.
Wes Strunk: Yeah, definitely.
Can You Keep The Same Doctor You Have?
Bob Lotich: All right. So, along these lines, one of the questions that I get asked a lot is can you keep the same doctor that you have?
Bob Lotich: And like I just alluded to, with Medi-Share anyway, we have a network, a group that it makes it easier in terms of submitting bills, but you’re welcome to use any doctor you want.
Bob Lotich: And I’m assuming in your case it doesn’t matter, right?
Wes Strunk: Yeah. It’s all post-appointment.
Bob Lotich: So, it just doesn’t matter.
Wes Strunk: So, you don’t have to think about. Which I actually do like that. Again, there’s a little bit more maybe work on your end to then submit it, but it means it’s just an open book in terms of who you go to, which has been great. Yeah.
Bob Lotich: All right. What other questions do you get that you can think of?
Wes Strunk: Pre-existing conditions-
Bob Lotich: Yeah, you’re right. That one comes up a lot.
Wes Strunk: … is a common one, at least that we get. And we joined when we had just gotten married with no kids. So, we didn’t have any ourselves, my wife and I, and then with my son having a heart defect, that’s all now rolled into the coverage. So, we don’t have to worry about that. I think if we were to leave and then come back, I don’t know if it would still be covered. I don’t know exactly how they handle all that. So, we haven’t had to deal with that. But I would definitely look and see what their policies are now on preexisting conditions.
And then anything like eyes, teeth, those things, dental, that’s outside of their normal scope of coverage. But Samaritan does allow you to submit a special, they call them special needs. So, if it’s not covered or I’ll give you an example. I had a friend of mine, they were having twins. They actually joined Samaritan ministries, maybe her third month of being pregnant. Which I probably wouldn’t recommend doing because you’re not going to be covered underneath the cover. I think you have to join 10 months before, which is probably the same for Medi-Share?
Bob Lotich: Yeah. I thought both of them are just a little bit before. I don’t know what it is exactly.
Wes Strunk: But even though they weren’t covered, they were able to submit a special need, which is for things outside of the scope of coverage. And what that does is we get a newsletter every month as I mentioned before, and I’ll get a thing at the bottom saying, “If you send an additional $20 to this family,” everyone who received this in the newsletter, if they send that 20 bucks, their need will be covered.
So, my friend, they had twins. Obviously, this is expensive. There’s NICU visits normally after having twins because they’re early. Their bills were a lot, but I think they had probably 40 to 50% of their hospital bill covered. That’s before their discount. So, they might’ve had 80 to 90% of their need covered and they weren’t even covered by the Ministry because people were generous and knew the situation. And they’ll put a little blurb in there about what your situation is.
Bob Lotich: That’s cool.
Wes Strunk: Anything outside of the coverage, there is a space to submit a need for that. And you can run that need until it’s covered in full if you want to. And then preexisting conditions, there definitely are things that go with that. We just didn’t have to deal with that. I don’t know what Medi-Shares covers for that.
Bob Lotich: Yeah. From my research what I did on this, is that basically all of them, and even beyond Samaritan, but both Samaritan and Medi-Share have rules on the preexisting conditions. And I understand that both of them cover certain stuff in certain circumstances but they’re really, really specific about all this. This is stuff that you just want to check their website to see and make sure that what you have is going to be covered.
Now, I do see all the time that people are really frustrated and they say, “Well, this isn’t a Christian organization because they’re not covering special needs.” And which I can understand the frustration there. The reality is, is I think if both of these ministries exclusively covered every single one, I don’t think they’d exist because everybody would come running.
So, it’s a really tough and tricky kind of thing, but … anyway.
Wes Strunk: For sure. Yeah. I mean, they’re offering what they can offer.
Bob Lotich: Yeah. They’re doing what they can. And anyway …
Making Your Decision: Medi-Share Vs. Samaritan Ministries
All right. So, these are a lot of the questions that we’re aware of. If you have any other questions, fire away in the comments. I will be around to answer them. Maybe you can swing by once in a while and answer what you can.
Wes Strunk: Yeah, for sure.
Bob Lotich: And yeah. What else?
Wes Strunk: I think people just need to pray through if they’re considering what they’re doing. And that’s what we did. Prayed through where you felt God saying, “This is where you need to plug-in.” Because I think there are pros and cons to both. I had a buddy who just prayed through this decision and that’s what I told him. They’re going to be positives and negatives, but you just got to pray and see what God wants you to do.
Either one’s going to be a great option.
Bob Lotich: So, much better than health insurance, in my opinion.
Wes Strunk: And then again, that’s where we really felt, with just personal conviction, this is where we wanted our money going each month. Outside of the premium costs being a lot less, even with Samaritan, which is obviously higher than what you guys are paying. Over two and a half times, basically. But I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s just people praying through what to do next and then God leading them. Because both are going to be-
Bob Lotich: Yeah. I think they’re both a win if you’re comparing it to traditional health insurance. In our case, we saved, it was about 50% once we switched from regular health insurance to this. And I’m assuming you guys are in a similar boat.
Wes Strunk: Yeah, it was like, 40% which is so much cheaper now. I couldn’t imagine what our premium would be with … I mean, I had a buddy of mine, his premium was going to be, I think he’s saving 60% if he switches to what we’re doing, which should be more with Medi-Share if you adjusted that out. So, yeah, either one’s going to be a win, especially if you’re wrestling with an actual conviction of the for-profit nature of insurance. Either one is going to help bring some rest and peace to your soul.
Bob Lotich: Yeah. For sure.
Wes Strunk: I think they’re going to be the options.
Bob Lotich: All right. So that’s all for now. We’ll go ahead and wrap the thing up and I’ll leave you with a little taste of some of Wes and Callie’s music. Is that good?