WASHINGTON (RNS) Membership in two of the largest Christian “health-sharing” ministries has grown since President Obama signed the massive health care reform bill into law earlier this spring.
Christian Healthcare Ministries and Samaritan Ministries, with a combined membership of more than 70,000 people, have both grown in enrollment, officials said.
“The health care reform bill removes the option of having (no insurance),” said the Rev. Howard Russell, executive director of Christian Healthcare. “The second thing is that the pricing to be part of out ministry is much lower than traditional insurance,” Russell said.
Members of Christian Healthcare pay a monthly membership fee of between $135 and $455 to the ministry, which in turn passes it on to other members with certain medical bills, or sends it directly to members in need.
Samaritan Ministries members pay between $135 and $320 a month, plus a $170 annual administrative fee. Samaritan Vice President James Lansberry said membership has grown 25 percent each month since March, he said.
“The money that comes in actually goes to help a person who has been sick and who is suffering,” Russell said. “We’re not a profit driven organization,” Russell said.
About a year ago, health-sharing groups were concerned the health care legislation would not consider their ministries as an acceptable form of health insurance. In the end, an exemption in the Senate version of the bill secured the future of these groups.
Russell said the emphasis on paying members’ medical bills is a big difference from profit-driven insurance companies.
“We’re not having to satisfy stockholders, bottom lines,” he said. “We’re not creating and maintaining a corporate lifestyle.”