Samaritan Ministries International (SMI) may be an alternative to health care insurance that would suit the homeschool family both in philosophy and savings. SMI is a program that allows like-minded members to assist one another in sharing their health expenses. It is not health insurance, as members with similar values are voluntarily supporting one another on a monthly basis.
*Who can join?
Samaritan Ministries is a Christian group and requires its members to be confessing Christians who attend church regularly. Members must agree to not use tobacco, drink to excess, use illegal drugs or abuse legal ones, and must abstain from sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage.
No one is excluded based on age, health or pre-existing conditions though there are limitations on which of those conditions will be eligible for coverage.
*How does it work?
Once a month a member receives a newsletter with the name and address of another person who is in need of help bearing their medical expenses. The member is instructed to pray for this person, send a note of encouragement and mail their check directly to them, not the administration office. The receiving member will then get checks from a variety of people totaling the amount that was “published for sharing.”
One benefit of this plan is the significantly reduced costs over traditional insurance. A typical family may pay an insurance company $10,000 annually in premiums. The yearly total for SMI is about $3,000.
In addition to sharing costs with one another, the members of this plan are following the biblical model to share one another's burden through prayer and encouragement. The whole system is non-profit, so there is no corporate giant to feed.
Members can be assured that their payments are not supporting fall-out from lifestyles with which they disagree: tobacco and drug use, promiscuity or other high risk activities and behaviors. This is also what contributes to the extremely low payments.
For some people a disturbing aspect is the company's repeated statements to the effect of “we are not insurance, therefore there is no legal requirement for anybody to pay you anything.” However in practice this seems to be more of a legal disclaimer with no bearing on what actually happens. If a member does not pay their portion to the person with whom they were assigned to share then their membership is at stake, and another member will be assigned to fill in the gap where that member slacked off. In examining feedback from members, I saw no complaints of non-payment of eligible needs at all.
Samaritan Ministries medical share plan is an excellent option for Christians wishing to participate in a biblical model of a community of like-minded individuals sharing one another's burdens. The program works because of the requirements of faith and behavior leading to much lower expenses as a group, thus lower payments per member.