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.