Christian Groups Combat High Health Premiums By Paying Each Other's Bills

NPR: Some evangelical Christian groups in America are driving down health care costs in their own way, by helping each other pay medical bills instead of paying premiums. "James Lansberry, the vice president of Samaritan Ministries, says the concept is simple. First there's a $170 annual fee to cover Samaritan's administrative costs. His nonprofit group then compiles members' health care bills and tells its 14,000 households where to send their monthly checks." But there are restrictions, as well: "Religion is a large part of Samaritan's business model. Members need a pastor's signature just to join. And there are restrictions. If a member contracts a sexually transmitted disease outside of marriage, Samaritan members won't pay the associated health care costs." Benefits are also capped at $100,000 and members can vote to raise monthly contributions. There is also no guarantee that someone's bills will be covered. Groups like Samaritan are watching health reform for inclusion of an individual mandate to carry insurance, which would render their service effectively useless (Brady, 3/12).

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