Out There

Christian community does not = amassing wealth or security

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 27, 2012

Have you heard of these faith-based alternatives to health insurance (note the LONG discussion thread below the article)?  I love the idea and the appeal to Christian community from the book of Acts, but am not thrilled with some of the details, and after doing some more reading I have to agree with the view expressed in the last few paragraphs here (if you only read one of these links, read this one).  Basically you pay a monthly premium and you are covered for your medical needs, including catastrophic illness.  There are deductibles, and different tiers of pricing and coverage.  Sounds a lot like insurance, right?

Except you have to affirm Christ’s Lordship and attend church regularly, as proven by your pastor’s sworn written statement as well as your own.  And you have to live in accordance with a Biblical lifestyle – which they say means you cannot ever use any tobacco or alcohol products (hmm, what about communion?  “Do this in rememberance of me?”), as well as other stuff like no sex other than with your opposite-sex spouse.  Clearly, if you for example get in a bar fight and get hurt, they aren’t going to cover it.  But I wonder if they would cover a member who was injured in a car accident while traveling 63 mph in a 55 mph zone?  What if a guy has a heart attack while fighting with his wife?  This must get a little sticky.  If you are found to be living in a way that is suspect, you can be expelled from the plan.  The person whose job it is to make that determination…yikes.  I have apparently found another job worse than a substitute elementary school bus driver in North Kitsap (which when I was a child I was certain had to be the worst…job…ever).  ; – )

Also, none of these plans cover any pre-existing conditions.  And they all are very careful to say they are NOT insurance, so there is no contract, no guarantee of any coverage whatsoever.  You could get cancer while they are getting lots of claims for some reason, they go belly up and you get zero.  Insurance companies are regulated and required to have large cash reserves to prevent this, but not so with these plans.  As an example, one of these plans (“Christian Brotherhood Newsletter”) was embroiled in a financial scandal and was unable to pay thousands of claims.

“…a jury in Akron ruled that its founder, Rev. Bruce Hawthorn, and other former officials defrauded the ministry and ordered them to repay nearly $15 million they spent on luxury houses, motorcycles, expensive cars and high salaries, including one for a stripper whom Hawthorn said in an interview he was “trying to help.”” (from the 2nd link above)

So I guess my gut reaction to all this is disgust.  I don’t mean just the part about the fraud.  Even the untainted companies like medi-share, I have to question whether this is actually something that is pleasing to God.  It is all about exclusion, right?  And saving MONEY.  The draw of these plans for the consumer is they are typically significantly cheaper than normal insurance.  For obvious reasons.  As stated in the conclusion of the 3rd link above:

“It’s obvious where all of this is headed. Are we going to allow the 80% who are healthy to protect themselves from the costs of the 20% who are not, who utilize 80% of our health care services? If so, how will the 60 million people who are utilizing $1.5 trillion in health care pay for that? That’s roughly $25,000 per person.

Don’t we have enough social solidarity to decide that we should have a single risk pool to which the great majority who are healthy contribute to ensure coverage for the minority who are sick?

Apparently not. Some even seem to believe that it’s not the Christian thing to do.”

Let me stress that I’m all for Christian financial community and pooling our money together to help each other out.  I lived this way with a bunch of wonderful people for several years and it was awesome.  But not covering pre-existing conditions?  So if my son was born with ______ condition and then I wanted to sign up, any treatment for _____ would not be covered.  We’re telling each other, and the world, that that is Christian community?  I’ve seen some glimpses of the real thing, and it is much, much more radical and cooler than that.

No one can ever drink or use tobacco?  OK, so what about envy, anger, lust, or greed?  I’m guessing those things are harbored in most of our hearts at one time or another, but they probably don’t get you kicked out of the plan.  Mark 7:15 – “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'”  Jesus was speaking to the church leaders, the ‘pharisees and teachers of the law” (v 5).  All about walls, appearances, accusing, keeping the “unclean” at arms length, and preserving wealth, power and security.

So I guess these plans just seem so legalistic and externally-focused.  My insurance plan protects me from the BAD choices of all the non-believers out there, and it protects me from the BAD pre-existing conditions of my fellow members.  I pay less money!  I’m safe and protected behind these holy walls.  I’m sure you learned this at some point, but it still needs to be said (constantly):  Jesus was not real concerned with preserving wealth, position, and security, or avoiding pain.  Pretty much the opposite.   I don’t have life or my own sin or how to live like Jesus in this crazy world  all figured out.  But this isn’t it.  Maybe they could just call it “medical security blanket for healthy people who have some money and are a lot like me and who want to acquire MORE money by saving on medical insurance and if you have issues don’t join us” or something similar, and then I honestly wouldn’t have much of a problem with it.  The idea is a smart one.  If I lacked insurance I’d probably be interested myself.  If only they didn’t market it as an example of Christian community.  It is believers who have put themselves behind a wall, engaging in a form of community.  But it bears no resemblance to the community described in the book of Acts.  Sorry.  I gave this way more time and space than it deserved.

9 Responses

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  1. christiancareministry said, on February 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Thanks for writing about unique programs like Medi-Share. When mentioning the Medi-Share program specifically though, there were some inaccuracies I’d like the opportunity to clear up.

    First, the program is always changing because Medi-Share is voting-based with decisions being made by the Membership. Articles from 2005 may not be the most accurate when looking at our current 2012 program.

    In regard to your alcohol comment, Medi-Share’s guidelines do allow alcohol consumption. The guidelines say the “abuse” of alcohol is prohibited. Other ministries may treat this differently, but we are not all the same in our programs.

    Also, applicants verify their own testimony– not a pastor.

    While we do not accept pre-existing conditions, we do have limited sharing for some. Also, we have our Extra Blessings fund where members donate every month for additional ineligible expenses many of our members experience. We are blessed with a very generous membership who have demonstrated their desire to help each other even beyond their monthly share.

    The truth is, while our membership would love to share in everyone’s conditions, it’s honestly not possible with the means we have so our program does what it can. If we did accept pre-existing conditions, monthly shares would be much more expensive. We’re not trying to save money for our Membership in the hopes of them accumulating wealth like you mentioned, though. The thought is that the program promotes good stewardship. Some members have saved as much as 40% on their healthcare through Medi-Share. In theory, they should be able to invest the savings in other parts of their healthcare that are not shared in the membership. And as mentioned before, there is always Extra Blessings to help out in many cases.

    If you have any questions about our program, I’d be happy to answer them. Also you can read our guidelines here: http://mychristiancare.org/guidelines.aspx. Thanks again for writing about this topic!

    • Pete said, on December 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks for the gracious response, and I apologize for the inaccuracies in my post regarding the pastoral verification and the permissibility (wait – that’s not a word? Should be. : – ) of alcohol. As you say, “Articles from 2005 may not be the most accurate when looking at our current 2012 program.”

  2. Ian D. said, on March 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Stop apologizing for your posts, Pete.

    I have traditional PPO insurance.

    I think you are being somewhat hard on these people. How do you know what those people are doing with their extra $500 a month that they are not spending in premiums? Maybe they are giving it away in responsible ways and helping to transform society.

    One thing I like about Medi-share is that at least there is more to it than just paying the bills. I will admit that this falls short of Acts, if we had that, maybe local congregations would have collections for big needs for saints and sinners alike.

    I’ll grant that some of their statements come off very self-righteous. The fraud is egregious.

    Why fault them for focusing on externals like drinking, smoking, and adultery and not envy, greed and lust? They are not trying to say external sins are worse, but that they demonstrably cause more health problems. Demonstrably and more are important qualifiers.

    I don’t think that National Healthcare is answer either. Individuals in this country need to retain the power to make decisions about healthcare.

  3. Ken Lyn said, on March 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I read your post and thought this may help as well::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. You can find lots on Medi-Share and see reviews at http://www.newsonhealthcare.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-medi-share/ I hope this helped.

    • Dan said, on October 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Well duh! Of course they don’t cover homosexuals, adultry, or pay for abortians…[shakes head incredulously]. They make no bones about being a CHRISTIAN organization and as such they hold themselves to different standards than other organizations. Perhaps a practicing homosexual could join a homosexual alternative health share organization. Oh…wait…. there aren’t any. Hmm, so much for the open-minded all-inclusive homosexual community not even caring for it’s own. That doesn’t seem a fair supposition to you? You made the same assumption about medi-share. What’s the difference, specifically and without having to resort to personally attacking the messenger and just sticking to the issue and comments at hand? …..crickets……crickets…..

      • Pete said, on October 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        Deep breath guys. My tiny blog isn’t one of those places where people flame one another in the comments. Dan you challenged Ken to respond “without having to resort to personally attacking the messenger…” but your overall tone seemed like it was attacking HIM to begin with. I think you had a valid point to make, but someone with an opposing viewpoint will not be able to see past the “drama” in your post to actually have ears to hear what you’re trying to say, let alone respond in an even-tempered way. I’m really not looking for a reply, this is just me saying that comments with a lot of sarcasm and attitude probably won’t be approved.

        In approving these comments I went back and read my original post, and I think I was indeed a little hard on these programs. The comment from medishare was extremely gracious and rebutted many of my original points in a very effective, humble way. As I wrote in the original post I don’t have a big problem with the program, just with any description of it as true “Christian community.” I think if I wrote this post today my tone would be a lot mellower.

  4. Baroquenspirit said, on December 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Not that it matters at this point…the guy is dead. But Bruce Hawthorn spent his whole life helping people like the “exotic dancer” in this story. His wife, daughter and family knew her and were trying to help her as well. When you run a mission for poor, addicted and homeless people, these are the kind of folks that end up in your life. The paper sensationalized that aspect of the story because they knew it how it would play.

    • Pete said, on December 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Interesting. Thanks for the input Baroque. I don’t know anything about Bruce other than what I read from the online sources, but I do know your 4th sentence is quite true.

    • Dan said, on October 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      I appreciate the sprit that your comment was written in, BUT that was only a single aspect of the overall disaster that became the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter. They were found guilty in a very secular court of law of fraud, period. The abuses and excesses were quite real and admitted to by family members in public forums such as am880 WRFD which is a Christian talk radio station in Columbus, Ohio where I used to produce a show that interviewed some of the very ashamed family of Pastor Hawthron. Yes, I believe he started out with good intentions, but became seduced by greed and the love of money as they became more and more successful. That is the true lesson here, not really about the healthcare issue imho.

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