The Secret to Saving Money on Family Health Care

Health insurance does not protect you from medical costs like it used to. Health insurance deductibles have risen by 67% over the past five years — that’s over 6x more than the increase in wages over the same time period, y’all.*  What that means is you will pay more out-of-pocket for your family health care than you ever have before.  Wouldn’t you like to have a plan for saving money on this very crucial part of the family budget?

Well, do I have news for you! There is another way. I was flabbergasted when I saw the type of savings I could experience. Let me tell you all about it.

I am so tired of spending so much money on family health care! This post tells of a VERY effective means for saving money on medical bills -- I had more money in my pocket within the first 30 days!

[NOTE: This is not a post about Obamacare. I actually know very little about it. If you love it and have no desire to find any other way of handling your family health care, then this article is not for you. I will not be offended if you want to close this window right now. Just come back and check out the rest of the blog sometime, OK? :-)]

The Man and I were getting frustrated with the health care plan at his work. It seemed like every time he received a raise, the insurance premiums would increase by about the same amount. So we never actually saw an increase in net income. Needless to say, this was rather disappointing; so we went looking for other options.

What we found was a health care sharing ministry (HCSM) called Samaritan Ministries. There are other ones out there, too, like Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Liberty Healthshare. I don’t know much about those, though – you’ll have to do your own research. What I do know is that belonging to an HCSM has saved us a lot of money.

Health care sharing ministries are approved by the government as an acceptable alternate to enrolling in an Affordable Care Act insurance plan.  They are a means for a group of like-minded people to pool their money and their medical bills, so that everyone is helping one another.

How Samaritan Ministries, in particular, works is that everyone has a monthly “share,” or amount of money that they are obligated to send each month. That money gets used to pay the medical bills of other members. It’s kind of like what George Bailey told his Savings & Loan customers in It’s a Wonderful Life: “Your money’s in Joe’s house…right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and a hundred others. Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can.” In other words, I send money to help pay other people’s medical bills now, and they will send me money when I’ve got my own medical bills.

Not all sharing plans are the same, but one of the things I love about Samaritan Ministries is that I send my monthly share directly to an individual that needs it. That means I can pray for the person and send a note of encouragement along with my check. It feels like I am personally helping someone in need. So when I am writing the check, it’s not just another bill to pay; instead it’s a gesture of care and concern.  That makes me feel good.

But I’m sure you’re wondering: how does the HCSM help us in saving money for our family health care?

Good question! There are two ways (and the second is the one that surprised me):

1) We save because the amount of our monthly share is less than what was being deducted from The Man’s paycheck.   And in the 15 months that we’ve been involved in Samaritan Ministries, that monthly amount has not gone up. If we had stayed with the company health insurance policy, I know that the premium would have been increased this past June, during the renewal period.  It did that every year previously when we were on the plan, so there’s no reason to think this year would have been any different.  (Some months Samaritan has actually told us to send LESS than our usual share amount because of decreased need — gotta love it when that happens!)

2) We save because the amount of the medical bills themselves is considerably lower.  Did you know that when you tell a doctor or hospital that you will pay cash (i.e., you don’t have insurance and are guaranteeing payment with your own funds), they will give you a VERY LARGE discount compared to the amount they would bill the insurance company for?  I didn’t realize exactly how huge that discount would be until just a couple of months ago.

In late June I woke up one morning with severe back pain. It kept getting worse, to the point of me wishing I could get an epidural, lol, so after awhile I had my daughter take me to Urgent Care. They decided to send me to the ER.  I was in the ER for a couple hours and had some lab work done.  When they asked for insurance information, I told them I do not have insurance and that I would be paying the bills myself.  It was eventually determined that I had probably passed a kidney stone.  The pain receded, and thankfully I was done and outta there before lunch.

Fast forward a few weeks until my bills came in the mail.  I was absolutely amazed.

The original total for the hospital charges (use of the ER and labwork) which would have been submitted to the insurance company was $1200.24. The bill I received said I owed $363.31.  Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I would not have had to pay the full $1200 because of having insurance, remember that we must pay those lovely things called deductibles before the insurance company will pay a dime.  Most policies have a deductible of at least $1000 — so since I am fairly healthy and hadn’t been to the doctor for quite a long time, I would have owed that deductible amount to the hospital.  As it is, I owe a THIRD of that amount.

The ER physician’s bill was similarly discounted (isn’t it crazy how you get 500 different bills for one trip to the ER??), and the Urgent Care only charged me $15.  Altogether my kidney stone cost me $652.31. With insurance it would have been at least $1500 — and very likely much more than that.

You might be wondering if I submitted this bill to Samaritan Ministries to have it paid for me; the answer is that I did not (although I could have, no harm no foul). I have no idea what other people do; but in my mind, it’s up to me to pay for whatever I can. I believe that we have a responsibility to the other members to not use the HCSM indiscriminately.  But if I ever have a medical issue that racks up bills that I just cannot pay, I will definitely submit them in order to receive help. It’s a personal call, and it really could have gone either way.

What I did do, however — since I don’t have $650 just lying around — is call the hospital and the physician’s office to make arrangements to pay the bills over time. Setting up a payment plan is a very simple way to make paying medical bills more achievable. You can tell them how much you are able to pay each month — one of mine is set at only $25.  And the neat thing is that they don’t charge any interest.  Truly!!  So although it is a debt, I don’t feel like a frugality failure for setting up a payment plan.  I figure it’s better than paying with a credit card, right?  And if I get a windfall, or The Man gets overtime at work, then I can pay off the balance at any time.  My kidney stone bills shouldn’t take too long. :-)

Have you considered a health care sharing plan to pay for family health care?  It is a very effective means of saving money on medical costs.  Click on over to learn more about Samaritan Ministries today!  Here is their website: SamaritanMinistries.org.

P.S. Samaritan Ministries has not compensated me in any way for this article.  But they do have a referral bonus, which means that if someone signs up because a member referred them, the member gets a discount on their next month’s share.  So if you decide to sign up, tell ’em Annie & Everything sent you!  I’d sure appreciate it!  And then when you refer someone, you can receive the bonus! :-)

*http://time.com/money/4044394/average-health-deductible-premium/

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