Faith-Based Alternatives To Obamacare Are Taking Off In Texas

Dec 23, 2013
Originally published on December 23, 2013 10:30 am

Under Obamacare, nearly every American has to have health insurance or pay a penalty. One of the few exceptions is for people who are members of what’s called “health care sharing ministries.” The two largest sharing ministries – Samaritan and Medi-Share – have both nearly doubled their membership in Texas since the Affordable Care Act.

Diane Cozart has strong beliefs. Among them, that there should be freshly-baked cinnamon bread around the holidays, and a fully-decorated Christmas tree in the living room.

She also believes the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and in between home-schooling her six kids, she taught each of them to make healthy choices. So when Cozart and her husband found out about the Christian health sharing ministry called Medi-Share 15 years ago, they signed up the whole family.

“It’s a lot more than insurance, it’s a great piece of mind and it really feels like ministry too,” she says.

Every month Cozart contributes $550 – that’s for her husband and two youngest kids – to a Member Share Exchange run by a credit union. That credit union transfers funds from one member’s bank account to another’s when there’s a medical need that’s covered.

Sharing Ministries aren’t insurance – there’s no guarantee a bill will be covered. They’re a collection of like-minded individuals who agree to share in each other’s medical bills. Think about it like passing the collection plate at church on Sundays, only at a much larger scale.

There are some additional requirements under the biblical model of sharing, among them: members have to attend church, abstain from extramarital sex and avoid alcohol and drug abuse.

“I like knowing there’s an organization that sees how important it is that I first make healthy choices. Then I like that my insurance dollars are not going to folks who live alternate lifestyles and maybe they do things that are not healthful," Cozart says. "I feel confident I’m not paying for another person’s bad choices. So my premiums stay down.”

Medi-Share participants do pay less on average than they might for traditional insurance -- 30 percent less for according to a 2009 study by the industry trade group the Association of Health Insurance Providers.

Read more about health care sharing ministries on KERA’s Breakthroughs blog.

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