Health-Care-Sharing Ministries

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"Since the health-care reform bill passed last month, Lansberry has become a hot commodity on the conservative talk-radio circuit where he sings the praises of health-care-sharing ministries (HCSMs), Christian nonprofit organizations through which members agree to cover each others? health-care costs. As president of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, Lansberry, and his team of lobbyists, had persuaded Senate lawmakers to exempt alliance members from the individual mandate.

Lansberry is also vice president of Samaritan Ministries International, the largest of a handful of HCSMs with 46,000 members (HCSMs have a nationwide membership of roughly 100,000 ). For Samaritan's members, there are no premiums, co-pays, or claims forms. To join the HCSM, applicants must agree to a statement of faith that they are a "professing Christian, according to biblical principles" set out in Romans 10:9-10 and John 3:3. They must agree to adhere to guidelines that include no sex outside of "traditional Biblical marriage," no smoking or drugs, and mandatory church attendance. They must agree to pay their membership fee and monthly share, and they must also agree not to sue Samaritan in the event of any dispute because "Christians are not to sue each other in the civil courts or other government agency."

Members pay for their medical costs out of pocket, and submit their receipts to the ministry, which then "publishes" members? "needs" in a monthly newsletter. There is a $100,000 cap on reimbursements, and certain medical conditions, including some pre-existing conditions, pregnancies of single mothers, abortions, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and sexually transmitted diseases, are excluded. Each member then sends their monthly "share" to a member who has a published "need." In an interview, Lansberry maintained that no Samaritan member has had a "need" go unfunded, because "God is the ultimate provider." (