Tax-announcement

Tax time is not exactly the most wonderful time of the year, but we can help make it a bit more bearable with some information about how members of health care sharing ministries should fill out their IRS Form 8965 to claim the health insurance exemption.

Members of Samaritan Ministries are exempt from the federal tax imposed on those who don’t have health insurance. To prove your qualification for this exemption in 2016, you complete the health insurance questions in your tax software or include IRS Form 8965 when you file your 2016 federal income taxes by mail.

If you’re not required to file a tax return, you don’t need to do anything to prove your exemption.

Our tax page has:

  • A video explaining how to answer questions and fill out forms.
  • Frequently asked questions about the ACA tax and health care sharing ministries members’ exemption.

Take a look if you have questions.

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The State of the Ministry, 2017

note share prayer

Send a Note, Pay your Share, Always Stay Alert in Prayer

By Ted Pittenger

Founder and International President

Every month, our Share Assignment Notice reminds all members of the three Samaritan basics: Send a Note, Pay Your Share, Always Stay Alert in Prayer.

From the beginning, Samaritan Ministries has exhorted our members to trust in God for our health care needs (and all of our other needs) and to support one another with prayer, encouragement, and sharing.

We have always emphasized that God is the only One Who can be depended on to meet all of our needs. No one else even comes close. He created everything. He owns everything. This past year has given us many opportunities to experience His provision for the ministry and for the thousands of individual households.

Another year of amazing growth

We started the year with 52,000 member households and have grown to more than 65,000 households that are sharing health care needs. In January alone, more than 5,000 households joined Samaritan. It was the third consecutive year where there was a spike in growth during the open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, as Christians continued joining together to provide for one another’s health care needs in a way that supports their Biblical convictions. Last year we were sharing about $15 million in needs each month. This year the needs members are sharing have reached nearly $20 million.

Read the rest of this article…

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Stethoscope over the dollar bills.

By Ron Drummond, Board Member

As a Samaritan Ministries member, you’re a cash-pay patient. If you previously had health insurance, that means you need to learn a different way of navigating the health care world.

When my wife, Lynn, and I joined Samaritan, I started putting my experience as a hospital billing and patient account auditor to work. I’d like to share what I discovered, in the hope that you’ll find something to help you.

First, I started gathering information on direct primary care practices, even before there was one available in our area. Every month I searched the direct pay sites for a local DPC physician, and one month there finally was one.

Direct Primary Care was a significant change for my wife, but after we interviewed the doctor, she was on board. Now we have a doctor working for us, not a third party, with whom we can discuss price and quality.

We find the DPC membership to be well worth it for the unlimited access to the doctor, and it also results in savings on services our DPC can provide or connect us to. Our DPC doctor has found us hundreds of dollars in savings on imaging services, prescriptions, and routine procedures.

Over time I have developed a process for finding health care at the best price.

  1. For outpatient and orthopedic surgeries, I go to the Surgery Center of Oklahoma website (surgerycenterok.com) and use their pricing tool to find out what the true cash price would be.
  2. I also use Healthcare Bluebook (healthcarebluebook.com) and search for the price of a procedure in my ZIP code. Healthcare Bluebook then provides me with what the hospital would receive if I had insurance. This is good gauge of the “retail price.”
  3. I open a search using Medibid (which members can access inside the Samaritan Dashboard) to see if any local cash providers would be lower than the Healthcare Bluebook price.
  4. Finally, I have been calling hospitals in my area to see what their price estimate would be for a procedure, telling them that I do not have insurance and also asking what their cash discount percentage would be.

I followed this process in 2015 when I needed a routine outpatient procedure. I was able to get the procedure, originally priced at over $31,000 at the highest priced hospital, performed locally for $5,300 after discounts.

Shortly after this need, I decided to call all the hospitals in Kansas City and capture their cash-pay discounts in a spreadsheet. It was an eye-opening experience as I documented discounts as low as 25 percent and all the way up to 75 percent. I also was able to get some information about average prices from a consulting company, so the spreadsheet shows the effect of average prices combined with the cash-pay discount and ultimately the best value for the Samaritan members that will be sharing in our burden.

Knowing ahead of time what a hospital’s cash discount is allows you to have a more honest conversation with the folks in registration. I tell them I am a cash-pay patient and ask them to confirm that their cash discount is X percent. They usually don’t have a script for someone who says they are cash-pay, so then we can have a conversation about how I will be paying the bill.

Some providers are very receptive to cash-pay patients, seeing them as a new market, and some are not. We are certainly seeing it in Kansas City, where three different health systems offer cash discounts of 70 percent or more for cash payers.

Because of the fallout from the Affordable Care Act—plans with high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs—hospitals are actually having to learn more how to deal with cash payment from many of their patients.

In fact, hospitals are seeing patients presenting at registration and claiming to have no insurance, when they actually have a high-deductible plan, because the word on the street is that if you tell the hospital you have no insurance, you’re potentially going to get a better price. If you tell the hospital you have a high-deductible plan they won’t give you a cash-pay discount and you’re going to wind up owing a big dollar amount for your deductible.

In general, the more progressive organizations and the organizations that face a lot of competition in their markets are more open and receptive to larger cash discounts. Smaller markets, not so much.

Keep in mind that in the hospital industry, those who are “self-pay” are often viewed as the population that doesn’t pay their bills. That’s why it’s a good idea to start by presenting yourself as a “cash-pay” patient.

I encourage Samaritan members to shop around for good health care prices and discounts, and, if possible, to do it before medical care is needed. That was something Lynn asked me to do before we joined Samaritan, because she wanted to be sure where we would go and how we would pay in the case of an emergency.

It was a good exercise to go through. At first we were concerned about how we were going to handle payment to providers. Now we are both very comfortable being part of the Samaritan family. 

Ron Drummond is a member of the Samaritan Ministries Board of Directors and also is an auditor for hospital billing and patient accounts systems. He lives with his wife, Lynn, near Kansas City.

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The Wedge of health freedom

 health freedom

By Twila Brase

The way back to health freedom, and out of government-regulated health care, is already here. You may not realize it, but there are doctor’s offices and surgical centers sprinkled around the nation that offer affordable, confidential, and patient-centered care, free from outsider controls. And, I’m pleased to say, more are on their way.

Welcome to The Wedge of Health Freedom, America’s free-trade zone for health care.

The Wedge is where patients and doctors come together in an ethical, trusted relationship at an affordable price. In The Wedge, care is patient friendly, pocketbook friendly, and privacy friendly. It’s the way health care always was before government and corporate-managed care plans intruded, and the way health care should always be.

Medicine has always been a mission, stemming back to the compassionate healing ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ Who amazingly came not to be served, but to serve. But Congress has sold out to managed- care corporations, granting them exclusive privileges to run Medicare, Medicaid, and now the Affordable Care Act. The health care marketplace has become a bureaucracy run by a cartel instead of a free market that allows people to serve one another by exchanging goods and services

This is disastrous for patients who need care, and morally devastating for physicians committed to serving the patient. When physicians face penalties for individualizing patient care or refusing to comply with one-size-fits-all treatment protocols embedded in the health care system’s computer, a dangerous conflict of interest has developed. The doctor is no longer working for the customer: the patient.

The doctor’s office should be a safe place for patients—a secure sanctuary—where patients know that doctors are focused solely on their good and where patients know that their most embarrassing confessions will be held in confidence. But in too many doctors’ offices today, managed-care restrictions, government surveillance systems, and federal reporting requirements have led to tight-lipped patients and hands-tied doctors.

It’s time for freedom.

Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHF), a non-profit national health freedom organization, launched The Wedge of Health Freedom for two reasons. First, we know there are doctors and practices operating today that serve their patients freely because their hands are not tied by contracts with insurers and government agencies. But most Americans don’t know these affordable practices exist—sometimes right in their own backyards. Therefore, CCHF wanted to identify and make visible the free-trade zone for health care that exists today. We’ve branded it “The Wedge of Health Freedom.”

Second, we wanted to establish a nationwide grassroots movement that would draw the public’s attention to this zone (“The Wedge”), offer these practices as an attractive choice for patients everywhere, encourage doctors to escape into The Wedge, defend the right of “Wedge practices” to operate freely without government interference, and expand The Wedge into an ever-larger slice of the American health care pie—until it’s no longer a wedge, but the entire circle.

‘Wedge practices’ for health freedom

The Wedge of Health Freedom has eight simple but important principles for “Wedge practices”:

  • Transparent, affordable pricing
  • Freedom to choose
  • True patient privacy
  • No government reporting
  • No outside interference
  • Cash-based pricing
  • Protected patient-doctor relationship
  • All patients welcome

The cost savings can be huge for patients and doctors. Because Wedge practices do not sign managed- care contracts or participate in government programs—but they open their doors to all patients, including those in Medicare, Medicaid and managed care—they are exempt from more than 132,000 pages of Medicare regulations, more than 20,000 pages of Obamacare regulations, the onerous electronic health record (EHR) mandate and all the attorneys, billers, coders, data reporters, technical staff, and administrative managers associated with these and other regulatory burdens. These cash-based Wedge practices are free from third-party payer controls and costs, and the savings and extra face-time with the doctor are passed on to the patient.

Examples abound.

PATMOS (“pay at the moment of service”) EmergiClinic, started and run by Samaritan Ministries member Dr. Robert Berry, has thousands of patients in Tennessee. They all pay cash, check, or charge, even those on Medicaid.

Using surgeon Dr. Kevin Petersen’s NoInsuranceSurgery.com, patients head to Las Vegas, Nevada, from every corner of the country. Petersen, whose services include $5,000 hernia repairs, uses an outside financing company for those who wish to establish payment plans. He notes on his website: “A health insurance company in no way helps a surgeon provide surgery and for that matter helps no physician take care of their patients.”

For age-based monthly fees, AtlasMD in Kansas offers unlimited access to physicians, same-day scheduling, certain diagnostics and procedures at no extra cost, and wholesale lab and medication costs.

In Massachusetts, Gold Direct Care charges monthly age-based fees and offers discounted lab tests, medications, and more.

The Wedge is growing

More than 145 practices have already joined The Wedge. Patients can use the “Find a Practice” tool on the website to locate doctors who will work for them—and only them. As the numbers of Wedge practices grows, and the number of patients seeking them expands, more doctors will realize that it really is possible to find freedom and restore joy.

For instance, meet Dr. Brenda Arnett, M.D. She runs a cash-based Wedge practice in Virginia. Ten years ago, she left the bureaucratic model that didn’t allow her time to sufficiently care for her patients. She says she’s slept better ever since. Her patients, including nearly 200 Medicare recipients, pay by cash, check, or charge. She typically spends 45 minutes with each patient, makes house calls, and oversees her patients’ care at the hospital.

Dr. Ashley Maltz, M.D., an integrative medicine physician, posted the following about her cash-based practice at KevinMD.com earlier this year: “I had to leave the comfortable confines of my salaried practice in order to become the doctor I’d always dreamed of being. The doctor who is centered, grounded, and wise. The doctor who gets to spend however much time she/he needs with a patient in order to get to the root cause of health issues …”

The Wedge also addresses a significant problem in health care today: the disconnect between who receives care and who pays the bill. Patients who don’t pay their own bills are insulated from costs, which adds expensive, unnecessary bureaucratic third-party payer processes to the cost of care, and allows insurers to interfere in medical decisions and deny payment. The Wedge puts patients and doctors in a direct relationship, with transparent, affordable prices and no delays or denials.

This is how the practice of medicine used to be. The Wedge will take health care “back to the future.” Back to a time when medical bills were manageable, health insurance was rarely used (and affordable), and the patient-doctor relationship really was a relationship.

All patients need a trusted doctor in their corner—a doctor dedicated to protecting and caring for them when they cannot protect and care for themselves. The Wedge is for everyone, including the insured, the uninsured and the publicly subsidized. When a health plan or the government says no, even the “covered” may need a doctor who says yes.

All patients need a trusted doctor in their corner—a doctor dedicated to protecting and caring for them. Invite your doctors to join the Wedge.

Supportive comments

Some of the supportive comments we’ve heard since our June 28 launch at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., include:

“I love it. My boss will love it.” (Congressional staffer, D.C.)

“What you’re doing will help everyone in the country.” (physician, PA)

“Is this available in the state of Texas?” (citizen, TX)

Who can be in The Wedge?

Wedge practices can include physician offices, surgical centers, dental practices, and others. However, due to a federal law, chiropractors and independently practicing physical therapists and occupational therapists cannot opt out of Medicare and are prohibited from engaging in private contracts with their patients. That was a surprise discovery—and a law that should be repealed.

‘Wedge hospitals’

We also envision the establishment of “Wedge hospitals.” These could include faith-based hospitals free from conscience-violating mandates and the high costs of managed care restrictions and government regulations. It will be interesting to see how low hospital costs can go if they are free to simply do the work of a hospital and nothing else.

The Wedge of Health Freedom is a nationwide grassroots campaign to restore the heart of health care in America, regardless of whether the “Affordable” Care Act is or isn’t repealed, and no matter what happens to Medicare. The Wedge is an alternative, affordable patient-centered system outside of government regulations and managed care controls.

Invite your doctors to join the Wedge. It may take them two or three years to actually break free, but the time to start showing them it’s not only possible but a good idea is now. As a grassroots campaign, we’re counting on patients and doctors everywhere to promote and expand The Wedge of Health Freedom. Go to www.JOINtheWEDGE.com for resources to share with your doctors.

Samaritan Ministries member Twila Brase is the President of Citizens Council for Health Freedom. Her “Health Freedom Minute” is heard on 400 radio stations. Her efforts have led to successful lawsuits against illegal state storage, use, and dissemination of newborn DNA.

Read about direct care practices run by Samaritan Ministries members at samaritanministries.org/dpc.

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By Dr. Eric Potter

drpotter_NEWNearly every person touched by our health care system has a legitimate complaint concerning its dysfunction. The suffering complain that they feel like a number being shuttled through a hurried system. The doctors complain that they no longer have time to care for patients, but are instead filling out computer forms. The insurance companies complain that they must raise their rates. Conservatives complain that euthanasia and abortion are unhindered. Liberals complain that the poor go without care. There is truth to each of these and other complaints, yet I wonder how many of us really see the underlying source of the dysfunction.

We have all imbibed the snake oil of a humanistic approach to medicine. Clinically, financially, and ethically, we are drunk on this snake oil and wonder why we can’t find our way out of the dark hole. Only a God-centered and God-directed approach can replace the snake oil with Living Water and bring Light to our path.

Before this Living Water can be appreciated, larger society, particularly those who follow Christ, must discern the reality of our broken system—a system broken to the core—rather than just complain about superficial symptoms. Compounded into the clinical care provided to each of us, we find at least two goal-oriented deceptions in the snake oil.

On the one hand, society desires to live autonomously, unheeding either Biblical truth or a natural understanding of health. We treat our being not as God’s image, but solely as an instrument of self-pleasure. Stewardship rarely enters our thoughts or desires in regards to our personal health.

On the other hand, we look to medicine to be a savior of sorts, restoring the brokenness we suffer whether it comes from a fallen world or from our own actions. Even the seemingly noble patient-centered medicine where the doctor puts the patient into the driver seat, ultimately plays to the false notion that we can save ourselves. Humanistic medicine plays the part well, promising either a cure now or a glorious cure in the near future with a little more research.

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