MediShare vs Samaritan Ministries

It’s no secret that I have been using Medi-Share for my family as our health insurance alternative for years. I have enjoyed it and it has saved us a ton of money over the years.

But in this video I sit down with a friend of mine who has been a long-time Samaritan member and we compare and contrast the differences between the two.

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So if you are looking at a Christian health sharing ministry (or know anyone who might be) this will definitely help.

Samaritan Ministries vs. Medi-Share

Medishare Samaritan reviews and comparison

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 Samaritan for how many years?

Wes Strunk: Six years.

Bob: Six years. We’re going to share our experience with both of them, and compare and contrast.

Bob: 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 to visit, because everybody’s a musician.

Wes: That’s very true.

Bob: 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. They just recorded this really cool EP called Into the Unknown. If you like good worship music, you should definitely check it out.

How have you enjoyed it?

Bob: All right, so Wes and I both get asked a whole bunch of questions about our experiences, his with Samaritan, mine with Medi-Share, and we’re just going to go through a list of these questions, and go from there.

Bob: All right, so first off, you said you’d been with Samaritan for six years. I’ve been with Medi-Share for nine years. Tell me, in general, how you have felt, and this is more of an overall feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with Samaritan over that time.

Wes: Yeah. I mean, I would say, on a scale of one to 10, probably a nine or a 10. I mean, it’s been an amazing experience. 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. I know Medi-Share maybe has ministry in the name, but it really does feel more like a ministry than anything else. 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 the scripture, and it has really fulfilled what we thought it would be from the beginning.

Wes: It’s rare that you find something … You know, usually, 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, and it’s been incredible, honestly. Every step of the way has been great.

Bob: Yeah. I mean, in our case …I wouldn’t classify them as a ministry. I mean, even though … 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, really clear that it is not health insurance. 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 kind of fall into that category. A lot of times, when you call Medi-Share, at the end of your phone call, they ask to pray with you for any needs you might have. Then, you have opportunities to kind of share with other members and things like that but fundamentally it feels very similar to insurance for me. I do think that seems to be a little bit differentiator.

How have maternity expenses been handled?

Bob: Another thing I want to ask you is, along these lines, you have given birth. Yeah. Two kids, with them, right?W

Wes: Yes, my wife has. She’s incredible, but yeah. We’ve had two kids, as we’ve been with Samaritan for six years. We have a 3 1/2-year-old and a little over 1 1/2 year old.

Bob: How did that go? How were the maternity expenses and all that?

Wes: Yeah, so our first, had to go to the NICU for a couple of nights. What blew my mind was when you have your hospital bills, I think our first baby, total bills were 30-35 grand for just hospital fees. You know, triage, maternity care, having to go to NICU for two nights. When you see that, you’re like, “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 uses the same thing. Sharing it among the members.

Wes: It’s kind of like, “Okay, we hope this works.” I remember, I went to pay with self pay discount, and I mean, I think they slashed 90% of the price. My understanding from the hospital where we had our son, Cade, was it was a flat rate for a self pay patient. Even if our bills had been more than that, it still would’ve been that almost 90% slash rate. When we submitted our need, it was covered in full, and we didn’t pay anything out of pocket for that, which was pretty incredible. 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 zero dollars out of pocket for having our first kid.

Bob: 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 that soon. In our case, one of the nice things with the adoption was Medi-Share covered, not the entire cost of the adoption, but contributed to it both times, which was nice.

Wes: Yeah, that’s amazing.

Bob: Because adoptions are not cheap. Anybody who’s ever done it knows, and so that was kind of 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.

Wes: Yeah, I’m curious.

Where do monthly premiums get sent?

Bob: All right, so talk to me about your monthly premiums. I know the verbiage might be different, but how much are you paying per month to be part of Samaritan.

Wes: Yeah, Samaritan uses the word share, so your monthly share. Ours is $495. That is for a family. I think they just introduced different coverage tiers. Again, it’s not traditional insurance, but they use that terminology. I think for $300 a month you get a certain deductible, basically. I’m using insurance language, but we understand what that means. Then, we do the $495, which is their upper amount. That’s just what we’ve always done. That deductible is basically, anything over $300 you can share among the people. 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 say, “Okay, self pay, that’s going to be $500,” then that basically waives your deductible, and so you don’t pay any money at all.

Bob: Really?

Wes: Out of your own pocket, yeah. If there’s $1,000 and then you have to pay $1,000, it would cover $700 of that.

Bob: So there’s incentive for you to negotiate.

Wes: Yes.

Bob: Because that’s pretty much coming directly back to your pocket.

Wes: Yes. 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 have always negotiated.

Bob: Well, you’re good at it.

Wes: I try to fake it as much as I can, but that’s really helped. We’ve never … Any time we’ve actually shared something, we’ve never had to pay any out of pocket.

Bob: All right, that’s cool. The $300 deductible is per one time, per one event?

Wes: Yeah, anything grouped into an event. 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, so no out of pocket expenses.

Bob: So all of that rolls up into one event.

Wes: Exactly, yeah.

Bob: Okay, so Medi-Share is very different, in that regard. They have an annual deductible. You know, in our case, we opted for the highest level deductible, because we pretty much just kind of wanted to self-insure as much as possible. We have a $10,000 annual deductible, and those go as low as, I think, $1,250, I think might be the lowest one. I’m not really sure. Yeah, and all these details, any time you’re watching this video, it’s past when we recorded it, so they might have changed. Definitely check the details out with both of them, but these are our experiences and our best recollection.

Bob: Anyway, you can have a much lower deductible. We’ve chosen to have a much higher one. That’s on an annual basis. Everything before that, we pay out of pocket. In our case, we really submit stuff to Medi-Share, because we don’t cross that deductible very often. Most of what we pay is just out of pocket. If you had a much lower deductible with them, essentially, once you cross that annual deductible, everything beyond that is covered.

Bob: Yeah, they’re functioning very, very different, which it makes it really difficult, I think, to kind of compare, you know? Because they’re very different animals depending on what your family’s needs are, and really, how you kind of … your cashflow of your home, and how you manage cash a little bit, too.

Wes: Yeah. What’s your premium with Medi-Share?

Bob: Our premium, right now, with the discount, which I’ll get to in a second, but basically, we’re paying $189 a month. It’s for a family of four, and I think it’s the same family of four and above. Anyway, definitely cheaper, but we have a really high deductible. So the discount, the thing that I just mentioned, is one of the things Medi-Share has that is kind of nice, is they give you a 20% discount off your premiums if you meet certain health guidelines.

Bob: Once a year, you have to submit, I think, your weight, your BMI, and your waist circumference, maybe blood pressure. Something like that. Pretty simple little things that you can get down really quickly, and if you fall into their healthy criteria, then they’ll knock off 20% of your bill. It’s been a nice perk, because it’s been pretty easy to reduce the bill by 20%.

Wes: I didn’t know that. 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 is then used to cover the needs of the people in the ministry. I’m pretty sure it’s based off Acts 2:42-47, where it’s, okay, they all shared, and everything, all their needs were covered. Nobody had any needs. That kind of mentality. 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 for-profit.

Wes: 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. There are a lot more intricacies to this, because you know, 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 they pay and share, to then cover all these needs in full.

Wes: Again, all this is on their site, and they do a much better job of explaining this than I can, but we’ve gone through two … or, yeah, 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. 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 it be covered 80% of the way, if that makes sense.

Bob: Yeah. No, absolutely.

Wes: That’s kind of how they do it, which I appreciate that I have input, and I’m informed on the situation.

Bob: Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, there have 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. I think we voted for like one or two of them, but anyway, yeah.

Where do you send your monthly premiums?

Bob: All right, so next thing up, one of the things I want to talk about are the monthly premiums. I think I understand this right, but confirm this for me. With Samaritan, you send your monthly premiums to another member. Is that correct?

Wes: Yes. Yeah, exactly. Except for one month of the year, you send it to the office to cover administrative costs. Every member of Samaritan is helping cover the admin costs once a year, and then the other months are sent directly to a member.

Bob: Okay, so practically speaking, do they email you and give you somebody’s address, and then you just write them a check or something like that?

Wes: Yeah, so you get a newsletter every month in the mail, with actual testimonies in the newsletter, as well as prayer requests, and the need that you’re supposed to be sending your share to. We might get, you know, for you guys, like, “Come on, Bob and Linda had their baby, and you need to send your $400 to Bob and Linda Lotich at this address, and send a note of encouragement.” You are supposed to write a handwritten note saying, “Hey, we’re praying for you.” Our son Cade, he had a heart defect when he was born. He had to have heart surgery at six months.

Bob: Oh, wow. I didn’t know about that.

Wes: Yeah, which was … I mean, talk about astronomical cost. It was a lot. Basically, six figures. Again, that was covered in full. We didn’t pay a dime for that, which was amazing. 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 was like, “Well, I wish I would receive this when I got married, all these checks.” I said, “No, my son actually had heart surgery, and we’re part of a ministry where people then help take care of your needs.” She started crying. My bank teller, and she wrote down the information, and what this ministry is about.

Wes: It’s just cool to see how God will even move through you depositing some cash for, you know, things that, obviously, our son having heart surgery, it’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’re praying for Cade to be completely healed.” I mean, I think we received 65 checks for that need, and it was all with a note of encouragement, or a prayer, or something different.

Bob: That’s really cool.

Wes: I have them in a little book for Cade when he gets older. It’s been really cool to see that experience for us, and how to handle it with sending it directly to a member.

Bob: All right, so not to, you know, turn too cynical here, but what happens if somebody doesn’t send the check?

Wes: Yeah, that’s fair. We’ve had that happen once, but it was on accident. I just called the office, and they do all of the legwork for you.

Bob: They take care of that.

Wes: They take care of it.

Bob: So you don’t have to hound somebody.

Wes: No, and if someone … Part of the agreement, being a member of Samaritan, if you miss a month within a year, you kind of forfeit your membership. There’s an accountability, like, “You’re agreeing to this.” If there is 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 them, the family that had it lost in the mail, if it wasn’t rectified for what I needed, sent to a different need. 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.

Wes: When you get a need, or have a need, it’s about a 60 day turnaround before you get checks in the mail to cover that, if that makes sense. I don’t know how Medi-Share is, but that’s usually … 60-90 days is the turnaround time.

Bob: 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 Medishare. It’s to a credit union account that we have, that Medi-Share has a power of attorney over. We deposit it into this account. We mail it to this check. Honestly, I’ve never even seen the account. Like, 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.

Bob: Anyway, so that money gets sent there, and Medi-Share takes care of everything else. There’s just not really any of that at all. 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.

Who sends the bill to sharing ministry?

Bob: All right. 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? You know, so I’m assuming … You said it’s self pay. If you go to the doctor’s office, yeah, they’re not going to bill Samaritan, right?

Wes: No.

Bob: I mean … Okay, because you’re going to self pay and then you’re going to take care of that.

Wes: Exactly, yeah. It’s basically like a refund. You go in there, and that’s why they have 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. Whenever I’ve done it, I’ve said, “Hey, I’m a part of a 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 a 90-100 day window.” That’s what I say, even though it’s 60-90 days for Samaritan.

Wes: I’ve never had … I had one hospital give me a little bit of pushback, but I talked to a person high enough in it, where they just want money, and if they’re going to get it, you know, then they’re fine with whatever. If it’s a four month delay, that’s not a big deal to them. That’s how it’s handled. You’re kind of representing yourself, and you can bring them in if you need help.

Bob: Got you. All right, so Medi-Share, that happens occasionally, but generally speaking, if you go with an-network doctor at Medi-Share, those network doctors’ offices typically will send a bill directly to Medi-Share. It’s not always the case. We’ve run into some where they don’t. It’s kind of an education thing, where not all these offices are aware yet, and they don’t really understand Medi-Share or whatever.

Bob: 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 kind of 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?” Then, we’ll explain, and they’re part of the PCHS network. I think that’s what the name is. Any network doctors in there, in theory, they should understand Medi-Share, and that’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.

Bob: 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. Yeah, definitely some major differences as we’re going through this on how all these things, these two programs differ.

Wes: Yeah, definitely.

Can you keep your doctor?

Bob: All right, so along these lines, you know, one of the questions that I get asked a lot is, “Can you keep the same doctor that you have?” Like I just alluded to, you know, with Medi-Share anyway, we have a network, a group, that makes it easier in terms of submitting bills, but you’re welcome to use any doctor you want, and I’m assuming in your case, it doesn’t matter, right?

Wes: Yeah.

Bob: Because it’s completely self pay.

Wes: Yeah, it’s all post-appointment.

Bob: So it just doesn’t matter.

Wes: You can go, and so you don’t have to think about … I actually do like that. Again, there’s a little bit more maybe work on your end to maybe submit it, but I mean, it’s kind of an open book in terms of who you go to, which has been great.

Are pre-existing conditions covered?

Bob: All right. What other questions do you get, that you can think of?

Wes: Pre-existing conditions.

Bob: Yeah, you’re right. That one comes up a lot.

Wes: Is a common one, at least, that we get. We joined when we had just gotten married with no kids, so we didn’t have any ourselves, my wife and I. Then, you know, 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 come back, I don’t know if we would still be covered. I don’t know exactly how they handle all that. We haven’t had to deal with all that, but I would definitely look and see what their policies are now on pre-existing conditions.

Wes: Then, anything like eyes, teeth, those things, you know, dental, that’s outside of their normal scope of coverage, but Samaritan does allow you to submit a special … We call them special needs. 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 coverage. I think you have to join 10 months before, which is probably the same for Medi-Share.

Bob: Yeah, I thought both of them are just a little bit before. I don’t know what it is exactly.

Wes: 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, like 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, their need will be covered.” My friend, they had twins, obviously, that’s expensive. There’s NICU visits normally after having twins, because they’re early. Their bills were a lot, but I think they had probably 40-50% of their hospital bill covered. That’s before their discount, so they might’ve had 80-90% of their need covered, and they weren’t even covered under the ministry, because people were generous and knew the situation. They’ll put a little blurb in there about what your situation is.

Wes: 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. The pre-existing conditions, there definitely are things that go with that. We just didn’t have to deal with that personally. I don’t know what Medi-Share’s.

Bob: Yeah, from my research I did on this, is that basically, all of them, you know, and even beyond Samaritan, but both Samaritan and Medi-Share have rules on the pre-existing conditions. I understand that both of them cover certain stuff and certain circumstances, but they’re really, really specific about it. 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.

Bob: 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, you know, special needs.” I can understand the frustration there, but I do … You know, the reality is, is I think if both of these ministries exclusively covered every single one, I don’t think they’d exist.

Wes: Yeah, exactly.

Bob: Because everybody would come running, and yeah. It’s a really tough and tricky kind of thing.

Wes: Yeah, for sure. I mean, they’re offering what they can offer.

Bob: They’re doing what they can, and anyway. 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: Yeah, for sure.

How to choose the right health sharing ministry for you?

Wes: I think people just need to pray through … If they’re considering what to do. That’s what we do. Pray through where you feel God saying, “This is where you need to plug in.” I think there are pros and cons, but you just pray through this decision, that’s what I tell people. There are going to be positives and negatives, but you just have to pray and see what God wants you to do. Either one’s going to be a great option.

Bob: So much better than health insurance.

Wes: Again, that’s where we really felt like, just personal conviction, this is where we wanted our money going each month. Outside of the premium cost being, you know, a lot less, even with Samaritan, which is obviously higher than what you guys have been paying, over two and a half times, basically, but I think that’s the biggest thing, is just people praying through what to do next, and then God leading them. Both are going to be great ministries.

Bob: 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. You know, I’m assuming you guys are in a similar boat.

Wes: Yeah, it was like 40%.

Bob: Where it’s just so much cheaper.

Wes: Even more 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 would be more with Medi-Share, if he just did that. 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. I think they’re going to be good options.B

Any more questions?

If you have any other questions about either Medishare (CCM) or Samaritan Ministries I recommend checking out their websites for details.

Wes and I did our best to present accurate information to the best of our knowledge (at the time of recording) but obviously as members (and not employees) there is plenty we don’t know.

So I highly recommend checking out their websites for up-to-date information on any questions you might have exact figures of how much it would cost your family.

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