Catholics and other Christians are flocking to faith-based health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to limit patients’ choice of providers and require people to act against their consciences.
Instead of paying health insurance premiums, HCSM members pay monthly “shares” to help cover each other’s medical expenses. Members are typically self-pay patients who shop around for the best value in health care and negotiate discounts with providers, keeping costs down for all members.
ACA exempts HCSM members from the individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a fine of approximately $700 each year.
Come One, Come All
Brad Hahn, CEO of Solidarity Healthshare, says the HCSM has attracted Catholic members in droves since its founding in 2016.
“We are proud to have grown to over 2,000 souls in less than nine months of being available to the public and are currently growing by over 15 percent month over month,” Hahn said.
Catholic HCSM members are a multimillion-dollar segment of the health care industry, Hahn says.
“Solidarity is a member of the National Coalition of Health Care Sharing Ministries, which has over 60,000 member households, with a monthly sharing power of roughly $15 million,” Hahn said.
No Church Schism
A separate HCSM, Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF) CURO, is a subsidiary of Samaritan Ministries International (SMI), one of the largest HCSMs in the country. SMI enrollment has increased by 477 percent since ACA became law.
Louis Brown, CEO of CMF CURO, says his organization welcomes Protestants and Catholics alike.
“Samaritan has well over 150,000 members, who share over $25 million per month in medical needs directly, one household to another, each month. As part of that, CMF CURO has over 1,200 households who participate in the sharing ministry. CMF CURO accepts Christians in our ministry, not just Catholics.”
Church and State
Solidarity Healthshare is a member of the National Coalition of Healthcare Sharing Ministries, founded in part by Liberty Healthshare, a large HCSM established as a Mennonite ministry.
Hahn says Solidarity partnered with non-Catholics to help people escape objectionable components of ACA.
“When the Affordable Care Act was passed, some Catholic leaders in our community searched for ways to pay for medical costs without having to violate our consciences,” Hahn said. “Since there was no viable Catholic health care sharing ministry, we partnered with a small Mennonite Church outside of Columbus, Ohio to offer health care sharing not only to Catholics but to all Christians who want to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his teachings.”
Government overreach has motivated the HCSMs to cooperate across denominations, Hahn says.
“This is a groundbreaking collaboration for faith-based health care sharing ministries, a first for Mennonites and Catholics who may differ on doctrinal issues but not on the essential life issues of contraception, sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia, the key moral issues, and religious liberty,” Hahn said.
Sanctuary from Obamacare
Brown says CMF CURO was founded partly as a haven for individuals whose rights are jeopardized by Obamacare.
“We wanted to provide an option for Catholics that protected them from the Affordable Care Act’s infringements on religious liberty,” Brown said.
Hahn says HCSMs must keep advocating for members’ religious freedom, even if Congress repeals Obamacare.
“Even if the employer and individual mandates of the Affordable Care Act are repealed, the battle will be mandates at the state level,” Hahn told The Stream in June. “For example, in California, all health insurance plans must cover abortions, with no religious exemption.”
Brown says the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, which would partially replace Obamacare, would accommodate HCSM members’ religious beliefs better than ACA.
“We believe the AHCA is the first of many legislative and administrative actions that need to be taken to [improve] health care in our country,” Brown said. “If a new health care reform bill passes keeping the House-passed AHCA’s pro-life provisions in the final legislation, it will be a historic prolife victory.”
The bill would help put patients back in charge of their health care decisions, Brown says.
“More work still needs to be done on ensuring that Medicaid and other programs adequately protect the materially impoverished going forward,” Brown said. “This is very important. Yet, we believe passage of the AHCA would be one of many steps towards restoring our country’s health care system and making the patient, the human person, the center of our nation’s health care.”
CMF CURO will probably continue to thrive as an alternative to health insurance even if Congress fails to replace Obamacare, Brown says.
“We think CMF CURO’s future would be bright whether the ACA is repealed or not,” Brown said. “Of course, because of the anti-life and religious freedom attacks of the Affordable Care Act, we would rather see a new health care law founded upon the sanctity of human life, with the patient at the center and not the government.”
Hahn says Solidarity members align their health care decisions with the organization and the church, not the federal government.
“Solidarity is available to all who subscribe to our member guidelines, which adhere to the moral and ethical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and the “Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” and most Christian traditions,” Hahn said. “Members agree to what is ethical and moral, not a federal bureaucracy or an insurance company.”
Dustin Siggins ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.
Image via Thinkstock
This article has been updated.