Health Care

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Christian health-care sharing grows in popularity

Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 4:16 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 2:38 AM
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From a health-care perspective, it is a radical idea.

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Judy and Danny Armstrong are members of Christian Care Ministry's Medi-Share, a national organization that allow Christians to share the burden of each others health care costs.  Emily Rose Bennett\Staff
Emily Rose Bennett\Staff
Judy and Danny Armstrong are members of Christian Care Ministry's Medi-Share, a national organization that allow Christians to share the burden of each others health care costs.

But for a Christian?

“Sharing each other’s burdens is what we do,” said Danny Armstrong, of North Augusta.

The retired missionary and his wife, Judy, are members of Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share, a community of 45,000 Christians across the country who help pay one another’s medical bills.

Medi-Share is one of a handful of Christian health-care sharing organizations in the United States. In April, Augusta native Tony Meggs was named president and CEO of Christian Care Ministry.

Since 1993, Meggs said, $465 million in medical bills has been shared among members.

Couples like the Armstrongs commit to living Biblical lifestyles, which include not smoking, using drugs, drinking in excess, or having sexual relationships outside of marriage.

Members contribute an average of $170 per individual or $282 per family a month. The plan doesn’t cover routine visits or some procedures, such as abortions.

In November, Medi-Share began recruiting new members in Georgia and South Carolina with advertisements on Christian radio stations such as WAFJ-FM (88.3) in North Augusta.

The Florida-based nonprofit currently has more than 1,700 members in Georgia and 1,400 members in South Carolina.

The radio spots advertise the fact that Medi-Share members are exempt from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new health-care law that requires most Americans who can afford it to purchase insurance by Jan. 1, 2014, or pay fees.

Meggs stressed that while Medi-Share can help Christians manage the costs of health care, it is not insurance. Resources are shared directly between members, and there is no pooling of funds, he said.

Whether Medi-Share qualifies as insurance is controversial in at least one state.

In Kentucky, a circuit court judge issued an injunction in March to keep Medi-Share from operating in the state. The decision followed a 2010 ruling from the state Supreme Court that Medi-Share does, in fact, qualify as insurance.

In November, the Kentucky Department of Insurance filed a motion requesting Medi-Share be held in contempt for violating the injunction, as Medi-Share continues to operate with several hundred members across Kentucky.

According to Meggs, Medi-Share doesn’t legally compel its members to help one another with their bills. Each member is ultimately responsible for his or her own bill.

“You have to be willing to rely on the moral collective will of members to share in your medical bills,” Meggs said.

For Christians who are self-employed or working with a missions agency, the service is invaluable, Armstrong said.

Armstrong, his wife, and their two children lived in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia as missionaries for nearly 15 years before moving to North Augusta about 11 years ago.

Shortly after their daughter, Joy, graduated high school, doctors found a tumor on the thymus gland in her chest.

“It was just supposed to be a routine exam for college,” Armstrong said.

She underwent open-chest surgery in Birmingham, Ala.

Medi-Share, he said, “stepped in and took care of all of that. They negotiated with the hospital on our behalf. We paid maybe $95 for everything.”

While their monthly share is close to $400 a month, the thousands of dollars they saved in that one instance convinced them that Medi-Share was worth it, Armstrong said.

“I can’t even remember how many thousands of dollars that was,” he said.

But it wasn’t the only time he relied on Medi-Share for substantial help. Four years ago, he ruptured a disc in his back.

“I was able to see a specialist,” he said. “It was affordable. That was the whole reason we signed up for Medi-Share. We needed reasonable coverage for medical needs. And we like the idea of Christians meeting the needs of other Christians.”

The concept of Christian health care sharing is continuing to grow and expand in popularity, said Meggs, 50.

Meggs, who graduated in 1980 from the now-defunct One Way Christian High School on Belair Road, still has family in Augusta and Evans.

He’d like to see the program expand locally.

“Last year, we grew (nationally) a little over 20 percent,” he said. “Over the last three years, our nation has endured a lot. With the economy the way it is, we’ve seen a lot of growth.”

Medi-Share, he said, isn’t for everyone.

“Sometimes we’re called as Christians to do something a little differently,” he said. “We’re to be in the world, but not of the world.”

MEDI SHARE

WHAT IS MEDI-SHARE? A Christian health-care sharing organization founded in 1993 by nonprofit Christian Care Ministry.

HOW DOES IT WORK? At the doctor’s office, members present their Medi-Share card. Bills are discounted at preferred providers, then sent to Medi-Share, where further discounts are negotiated. Medi-Share reviews the bill to determine whether the costs are eligible to be shared by members.

Each household has an account with America’s Christian Credit Union, created for the sole purpose of sharing costs. CCM matches members’ monthly contributions with other members’ eligible medical bills and transfers funds between the accounts.

WHAT DOES IT COST? Members pay an “annual household portion,” similar to a deductible, that ranges from $500 to $10,000 a year. A monthly share is paid based on the age of the member and size of the household. It averages to $170 per individual or $282 per family a month.

WHAT ELSE DOES MEDI-SHARE DO? Medi-Share will cover up to two adoptions per household under certain conditions. Members also receive prayer after posting requests to the Medi-Share Web site. Members are offered counseling and education on healthy, biblical lifestyles.

LEARN MORE

See mychristiancare.org/medi-share for more information.

Comments (14) Add comment
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TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 01/02/12 - 07:13 pm
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sounds like a scam to me...
Unpublished

sounds like a scam to me... just like insurance

thewayitis
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thewayitis 01/02/12 - 11:09 pm
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Christ ministered to the most

Christ ministered to the most needy. He most certainly did not screen "applicants" based on legalistic principles. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Please think about what is in your heart because your faith will always bear appropriate fruit.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 01/03/12 - 07:09 am
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thewyaitis, I'm lost on the

thewyaitis, I'm lost on the part "screen applicants". I did read in the article where the cost of medical services is negotiated and then they are review to see if the cost is eligible to be shared among the members. This is not about helping the poor and needy which I'm sure the Christians who are members of Medi-Share do. Through our tithes and offerings, the poor, needy, widows and orphans are assisted. This is about helping the members within the body of Christ with their medical needs. Two different ministries.

proud2bamerican
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proud2bamerican 01/03/12 - 08:29 am
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inChristlove; You present an

inChristlove; You present an excellent response and explanation of the program.

onlysane1left
216
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onlysane1left 01/03/12 - 09:09 am
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People sharing bills and

People sharing bills and helping each other out? Wow, I thought that was called socialism....... Beware, the conservatives will be after you!!!!

InChristLove
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InChristLove 01/03/12 - 09:21 am
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No need to beware

No need to beware onlysane1left, members are of the Christian faith and are committed to living Biblical lifestyles, which include not smoking, using drugs, drinking in excess, or having sexual relationships outside of marriage. I think these guidelines would eliminate a major portion of our society, sad to say.

"People sharing bills and helping each other out? Wow, I thought that was called socialism" No, that's what you call Christian spirit and it's not forced on anyone. Individuals are led by God to be Christ-like, awesome concept.

Bruno
780
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Bruno 01/03/12 - 09:46 am
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OS1L, if that is what you

OS1L, if that is what you thought socialism was you need to go back and hit the history books. Socialism isn't about voluntarily helping someone out. It is about the government forcing you to help someone out.

justthefacts
21089
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justthefacts 01/03/12 - 09:59 am
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Onlysane1 has clearly

Onlysane1 has clearly demonstrated the problem you encounter when trying to argue with Liberals.

wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 01/03/12 - 11:51 am
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wonderful idea and it will
Unpublished

wonderful idea and it will drive the liberals crazy!...and thats just fine.

sid2279
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sid2279 01/03/12 - 12:19 pm
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It sounds like insurance open

It sounds like insurance open only to Christians. I know Kentuckians got it wrong electing Rand Paul but their courts got it right calling out this spade.

onlysane1left
216
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onlysane1left 01/03/12 - 12:56 pm
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Funny, if you help someone of

Funny, if you help someone of your own faith out it is called charity, but yet, their is socialism around you and it is forced, yet, no one complains about it. No one of pays the police, when they come to help in time of need, none of us pays the fire dept after they've done their duty at a private citizens home, and no pays the public school district to send their children, it is all paid for with taxes. There is no Christian only police force, no Christian only fire department? Their are Christian private schools, but they are private so you must abide thier rules. So, if the government uses with the same idea that these Christian use, it is called socialism. Really?!?! What is the difference? Helping is helping, no matter who it comes from, if a Muslim pays a Christians doctor bill is that wrong? Only Christans can willfully help other Christians out? I think not! It should always be about Americans helping Americans. Shame on all of you posters who side with this helping only those they choose to help out and then call themselves American Christians. I just don't get that! No liberialism here, just common sense, and geniune American love, no matter what race, creed, color, etc., you are, just love for other Americans! Why can't we do this nationwide? Please.......

My grandfather had a saying, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Our country is a chain of a lot different people working together, but, if we keep making weaker links, how strong are we going to be?

InChristLove
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InChristLove 01/03/12 - 01:16 pm
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onlysane1left, if it bothers

onlysane1left, if it bothers you so much that sisters and brothers in Christ are forming an insurance organization to take care of their medical needs like a good family should......then why don't you create your own secular insurance organization to take care of those who are of another faith (the faith of the world).

It is not called charity either.....it is medical funds used to pay medical expenses for those who are called Christian who happen to be members of this Christian insurance group. The members pay premiumns so it's not charity.

When police or a fire department comes out to put out a fire at my residence or to investigate a crime that has occurred on or to my property, I do believe that my property taxes that I pay every year cover the cost of these public servants, just as your's does. We do not need a Christian only police force or Christian only fire department. That is what our property taxes pay for just like secular homes do.

"Only Christians can willfully help other Christians out?" Not at all onesane1left.....if you want to help Christians out, you can too!!! But the funds in the Christian Care Ministry's Medi-Share are collect by Christians to help pay medical expenses of other members who are Christian who are following healthy lifestyle according to biblical principals. Now if you want to accept Jesus and become a child of His, surrender your life over to him and follow His will, then I am sure they will let you contribute as a member and then you won't feel so left out.

As for others, if the Muslims wish to start their own medical group or if a secular group wishes to have a fund where everyone can share, if atheist wish to have their own group, nothing is stopping them.

Why can't we do this nationwide? Because not everyone would agree to live by biblical standards, that's why. Do you seriously believe that as a nation, everyone would commit to living Biblical lifestyles, which include not smoking, using drugs, drinking in excess, or having sexual relationships outside of marriage. Onlysane1left, bBe realistic.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 01/03/12 - 03:22 pm
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Liberals are often not very

Liberals are often not very realistic. This program is not run by the gov't. There is no gov't control, so Big Brother cannot get his hands into it and force a "share the coverage" with folks who don't pay into the program.

It's voluntary, not coerced. It's fully supported by willing members, not made compulsory by legislative or executive fiat. It takes no money from the gov't, and asks for none in return. It's an efficient system that is apparently of the people, by the people, and for the people. Overall, it sounds like the current administration's worst nightmare!

Little Lamb
44883
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Little Lamb 01/03/12 - 05:29 pm
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It appears that Vonnegut knew

It appears that Vonnegut knew little about either socialism or Christianity. Neither of them is dedicated to what he wrote.

Socialism is dedicated to the state. The state exists over the individuals – to subjugate them to the whims of the governors of the state.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 01/03/12 - 05:46 pm
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I agree with LL. Christianity

I agree with LL. Christianity teaches that if an able-bodied person refuses to work for a living, then that person has no right to eat. That's right out of the New Testament, yet so few people want to recognize that teaching.

Personal responsibility and accountability are cornerstones of the Christian walk, as is helping those who cannot help themselves. But, no, Christianity is not dedicated to the proposition that no one should starve. It is dedicated to the proposition that you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; but if you do not live that faith and provide for yourself and your family (i.e., your children and spouse) then you are unworthy of the name "Christian".

simond101
3
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simond101 06/28/13 - 11:33 am
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Medi-share is indeed a unique

Medi-share is indeed a unique program for providing assistance with medical care, but unlike health insurance programs this route uses blatant discrimination to prevent certain individuals from benefiting from its service. Mychristiancare.org specifically points out that only those engaging in sexual intercourse within a “Christian” marriage are allowed to join. This immediately eliminates gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals from enrolling in Medi-share. The program also places limits on services it covers based upon religious beliefs and states specifically that abortions will not be covered under any circumstance .

To be clear, Medi-share is not an insurance program. Medi-share operates as a non-profit group and while members pay into a group fund each month, the money is never Medi-share’s money. Furthermore, Medi-share is not required to pay any bill, nor keep cash reserves on hand.REF:http://www.newsonhealthcare.com/medishare-reviewed...

Read more: http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/region_northern_kentucky/medi-share-health-...

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