As the deadline looms for American citizens to comply with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, many Christians are scrambling to understand their enrollment options. But many may be unaware of the fact that Obamacare provides a heath insurance exemption for people of faith who enroll in a Biblically-based healthcare sharing program.
On pages 107 and 128 of the Affordable Care Act, Christians who participate in healthcare sharing ministries are exempt from the “individual mandate” to obtain health insurance.
The legislation reads, “…Exemptions from Individual Responsibility Requirements — (A) In the case of an individual seeking exemption based on the individual’s status as a member of an exempt religious sect or division, as a member of a health care sharing ministry… Such term shall not include any individual for any month if such individual is a member of a health care sharing ministry for the month.”
However, in order to be eligible for the exemption, the healthcare sharing ministry must have been in operation since 1999. There are only three organizations nationwide that qualify under these terms: Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries and Medi-Share.
“There are some mandates that are written in the law regarding the coverage of contraception and abortion that certainly many Bible-believing Christians are going to have objection to,” Tony Meggs, president of Medi-Share, told Christian News Network. “Healthcare sharing ministries are an acceptable and legal alternative to those insurance mandates that require insurance carriers to cover medical services that Christians would find objectionable.”
“It’s a great option for people of faith to provide for healthcare needs without insurance. It’s affordable, it’s Biblical and it’s personal,” James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan Ministries, agreed. “Insurance and healthcare has generally become much less personal over the years, but having those notes and cards come in from other members when you’re sick, being able to know exactly where your money is going—those are all blessings to our members that we’re all excited about.”
The men state that unlike insurance agencies, their programs are rooted in Scripture, and are based upon the example of the early Church, which cared for one another and helped to supply each other’s needs.
“Our vision and our mission is rooted in Acts 2:43-47 where it talks about how the early Church not only shared their lives with each other every day, but they shared their resources with each other to be sure that no one went without,” Meggs explained. “But more importantly, they were able to change culture, because in verse 47 it says, ‘And they found favor a with all people.’ The early church, simply by the way they lived their lives and took care of each other, made an impact on culture.”
Membership is granted after applicants agree to a statement of faith and commit to live in accordance with a Christian lifestyle statement. Members then pay a monthly share, which is sent directly to other members who have outstanding medical expenses.
“We coordinate the sharing of those needs among other families,” Lansberry outlined. “Each month, I send my check … directly to another family who had a medical need the previous month. Last month, I sent it to someone in Missouri; the month before that, someone in Arkansas, and in the number of years that I’ve been a member of the ministry, I’ve probably shared in almost all of the 50 states…”
“It’s not insurance. There’s no guarantee that your medical bills are going to get paid,” Meggs advised. “But what I can tell you is that for 20 years, every medical bill that’s ever been published, our membership has faithfully shared in those medical bills.”
Lansberry shared with Christian News Network one of his most memorable stories of being able to help others in the Body of Christ.
“About a year and a half ago, we had a member that was unable to get on a transplant list. He needed a new liver and his liver had been failing for a few years,” he recalled. “We got to work with the hospital and the doctors to make sure that they knew that his need was going to be provided for. We were able to get a discount down to the fraction of the cost of what he might have ordinarily had to pay for such a service.”
As a result, the man is alive and healthy today, and all of his medical expenses have been paid because of the support of other members.
But Lansberry said that he was also on the receiving end of the program this year himself.
“I had a son who was stillborn and then revived,” he explained. “We were adding up over $200,000 in health care bills throughout the couple of weeks that were dealing with that crisis.”
“We paid cash for all of those bills because of the generosity of Samaritan members,” Lansberry advised. “My son is now eight months old, every healthy [and] developing very nicely. You’d never know the trauma surrounding his birth, but it’s just a beautiful story seeing the body of Christ taking care of each other, and that’s really what we do every day…”
Between the three Obamacare-approved ministries, hundreds of thousands of Christians have had their medical bills paid—totaling millions of dollars every month.
“When we live this out in practical everyday ways, we impact culture, and we empower the Gospel in such a unique way,” Meggs said. “That’s exciting for me to know that we have an opportunity to not only help each other, but to impact culture and grow the Kingdom of God.”
The deadline for compliance is February 15, 2014.