Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Samaritan Ministries’ philosophy of health care?

    We believe Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Provider for all of life’s needs. Individuals and families have the primary responsibility for their own health and decisions related to seeking health care. When they have burdens that are greater than they can bear, we firmly believe that the body of Christ, at the local church level first, and then in a broad corporate sense, should bear one another’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Our monthly newsletter seeks to teach these principles as an integral part of our Christian worldview, not only to our members, but also to all the Body of Christ, to whom we minister by example and exhortation.

  2. Is Samaritan Ministries’ health care sharing some kind of Christian health insurance?

    No. Insurance is usually thought of as a contract whereby one party agrees to be legally responsible for and accept another party’s risk of loss, in exchange for a payment called a premium. Health care sharing is an arrangement whereby Christians share, to assist one another with medical expenses through voluntary giving. We are not licensed or registered by any insurance board or department since we are not practicing the business of insurance. We do not assess applicants’ health risks, because neither the ministry nor the members are assuming financial liability for any other member’s risk. Unlike insurance, the focus of Samaritan Ministries’ need sharing is not on what you might receive financially if you have a need, but on how you can help others with the needs they have right now (Acts 20:35).

  3. Why don’t you use insurance?

    When health care costs are paid by someone other than the person receiving care, typically an insurance company or the government, the Biblical model outlined in the answer to question 1 can be undermined. We believe many of the current problems with the health care system are the direct result of restricting personal freedom and responsibility through dependence on third-party payers. Samaritan Ministries is designed to allow Christians to help one another while maintaining personal responsibility.

  4. Is this legal?

    The Christian health care sharing ministry of Samaritan Ministries’ Christian Health Care Newsletter is not restricted from operating in any of the 50 United States, or U.S. territories or any foreign country, and has no legal barriers of which we are aware. Samaritan Ministries International is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charity. Health care sharing is even recognized in the federal Affordable Care Act.

  5. What is the deadline for joining Samaritan Ministries?

    You can join anytime. There is no deadline or cutoff date.

  6. How are members of SMI affected by the new federal Affordable Care Act?

    Starting in 2014 the new law requires individuals to have health insurance or pay a penalty. However, the law also contains a provision that members of health care sharing ministries are not subject to the insurance requirement. The IRS will provide a special form that you will file with your taxes beginning with the 2014 return due on April 15, 2015, where you will report that you are a member of Samaritan. If you are not required to file a tax return, you won’t need to do anything.

  7. How will the IRS know that I meet the law’s requirements and don’t owe a penalty?

    There will be a special form that you will file with your taxes (attesting you are a member of SMI), beginning with your 2014 return due on April 15, 2015.

  8. Do you have premiums?

    As stated in the answer to question 2, Samaritan Ministries is not an insurance company, so we have no premiums. Insurance companies collect premiums that they keep until the money is needed for claims. From these funds they also pay all salaries and other operating expenses, build office buildings, pay executive bonuses and dividends, etc. Policy holders must sort through company reports to know how much of their money actually goes to pay for medical treatments.

    Members of Samaritan Ministries retain possession of their money until it is needed. Eleven months each year they are assigned a share that they send, not to the ministry, but directly to another member who has a qualified medical need. They know how much of their money is going for medical needs from the moment they put their share in the mail.

  9. How are the ministry’s administrative services supported?

    One month each year, on the anniversary month of when they joined the ministry, every Samaritan household sends the amount of their monthly share to the Samaritan office. In addition, new members send a one-time new member fee along with their first month’s share to the office. New members may also be asked to send their second and third month’s shares to the office, unless directed to send to another member to maintain share amounts for member needs. An audit of ministry finances is conducted by an independent, outside auditing firm each year to verify integrity in how administrative money is handled.

  10. How are claims handled?

    As explained in the answer to question 2, one reason Samaritan Ministries is not an insurance company is that there is no transfer of risk. This means that when a member receives medical care, there is no “claim” that is owed. There is simply a medical need. Samaritan members send proof of their medical expenses to the Samaritan Ministries office where they are evaluated according to the Guidelines. Then the qualified needs are shared among the members by being published in a monthly newsletter mailing where each active member is asked to share in another member’s medical need. Again, this giving is voluntary and does not involve any legal obligation (claim) on the ministry or the other members.

  11. Do you have a deductible?

    The concept of a deductible indicates that there are some amounts for which you are responsible, and some amounts for which an insurance company is responsible. In a sharing ministry each member is always responsible for all of his own medical expenses.

    Once again, Samaritan Ministries does not offer insurance, so our procedures are different. At Samaritan, a medical need involving less than $300 is not shared among the members. When the need goes over $300, the amount from $300 to $250,000 is shared. (The amount of a need that exceeds $250,000 can be eligible for sharing if the member also joins Samaritan’s Save to Share™.) If a member household has more than three shareable needs in any 12-month period, the first $300 is also shared for the fourth, and any subsequent needs in that period.

  12. Does your sharing ministry allow me to choose my own health care providers without penalty?

    Yes. While our website provides information regarding providers that welcome self-pay patients, there are no “preferred providers,” or required networks. Thus, there are no “out of network” penalties.

  13. What happens if there are more medical needs than shares in a month?

    Sometimes we can overlap needs from two months so that there is enough money for all the needs. However, if all needs cannot be met, we use a prorating method to evenly distribute the burden. For example, if there is only enough share money for 90 percent of the needs submitted for a particular month, only 90 percent of each need would be published in the newsletter for that month. If prorating occurs three months in a row without being reversed, the Board must propose a share increase to the members for a vote. See Section VI.D “Balancing Needs and Shares/Proration” and FAQ 13 for more details.

  14. What kind of requirements do members have to meet?

    Members must be professing Christians who attend church regularly. They must agree to abstain from sinful practices such as drug abuse and sexual immorality. They must be accountable to a pastor or other church leader for the needs they submit. For a detailed statement of requirements, consult Section I.

  15. Can overseas missionaries be members?

    Yes, and we currently have missionary members from all over the world. Overseas SMI members must have a means for timely receiving and depositing gifts from members when they have a need, receiving the monthly newsletter, and sending out their monthly share in U.S. currency. We strongly recommend that overseas missionaries have a state-side contact for these purposes.

  16. How much does it really cost to belong to Samaritan Ministries?

    Every member sends a share each month. Eleven months of the year, this share is sent to a member with a need. The other month it is sent to the SMI office to support administrative services. New members also send a one-time fee of $200 to the SMI office along with their first month’s share.

    Currently, a single member (one person) shares $180; a couple (two members of the same nuclear family) shares $360; a single-parent family (widowed, divorced, or legally separated) with children shares $250; and a two-parent family (three or more members of the same nuclear family) shares $405. The share amounts are subject to change by vote of the members. See FAQ 13.

    The monthly share is reduced for singles, and households with at least one parent or spouse, who are age 25 or younger. See Section III.D for more details. Those amounts are as follows: a single member (one person) shares $140; a couple (two members of the same nuclear family) shares $280; a single-parent family (widowed, divorced, or legally separated) with children shares $200; and a two-parent family (three or more members of the same nuclear family) shares $355.

    A sponsorship program exists to provide for those whose financial situation might otherwise hinder their ability to participate. See Section V.C for more details

  17. How are the monthly share amounts changed?

    The monthly share can only change if first the Board of Directors proposes a change and then the members approve by a supermajority. See Section IV.A.2 for more details.

  18. What is the maximum amount Samaritan Ministries members will share for medical needs?

    The maximum amount that will be shared among the members for each medical need (i.e. illness or injury, see Section VI.A.3 and 4) is $250,000. The need has to meet the Guidelines before it can be shared. SMI members are also eligible to participate in another sharing ministry, Save to Share™, where the rest of needs over $250,000 may be shared. (See Save to Share™ Guidelines.) There is no limit on the number of needs one person may have shared.

  19. Is there a lifetime or yearly maximum amount that is eligible for sharing for any one person or family?

    There are no lifetime or yearly maximum amounts eligible for sharing. There is no limit on the number of needs that an individual member or household may have.

  20. If I have large amounts of medical expenses, how will that affect my membership?

    Neither your membership nor your monthly share is affected by the amount of medical expenses you have.

  21. What kinds of needs do Samaritan Ministries members share?

    In general, needs for illnesses or injuries resulting in visits to medical doctors, emergency rooms, testing facilities, or hospitals are shared on a per person, per incident basis. See Sections VI-IX for more details.

  22. What kinds of needs do Samaritan Ministries members not share?

    Needs resulting from conditions that existed prior to your membership are usually not shared (see Section VII for details). Routine checkups and preventative care are considered items that can be included in your budget and are not shared. There is limited sharing of maternity needs related to a conception prior to membership. Most dental, audiological, and optical related needs are not shared. If any of these needs that do not qualify for sharing should become a burden to your family, the Special Prayer Needs ministry may be able to provide assistance. See Section V.A. A detailed explanation of the limitations on needs shared is found in Sections VIII and IX.

  23. So, if I have had cancer in the past, does that mean that SMI would never have its members share in any future cancer related bills I might have?

    NO, in fact there are several ways in which that need might be shared. First, the second cancer’s expenses would only be ineligible for sharing if it “resulted from” the first cancer. It is quite possible that a second cancer is unrelated to the first and thus eligible for sharing. Second, except for Type 1 diabetes or a heart condition, all conditions you had before your membership may be publishable after a time without symptoms or treatments (see Section VII for details). Finally, even expenses that are not eligible under the basic sharing program may be shared among our members through the Special Prayer Needs ministry. See Section V.A.

  24. What amounts do the members share for maternity needs?

    For a pregnancy that begins after the start of your membership, maternity needs are shared like any other need. For a pregnancy that began prior to your membership, the amount published is generally limited to the amount of shares you have sent from the beginning of the mother’s membership. See Section IX for more details.

  25. How do I know if a need qualifies for publication?

    The types of needs that qualify for publication can be found in the following Guidelines. Consult Section X to familiarize yourself with the general procedures for submitting your need and Sections VI-IX for the specific requirements for publishing certain types of needs. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call your Member Services team at 877-764-2426.

  26. How are expenses from medical treatments occurring overseas handled by SMI?

    Bills from medical treatments occurring overseas must be written or translated into English and the price converted to U.S. dollars. They are handled the same as bills from treatment in the U.S. in all other respects.

  27. How will I pay my bills when I have a need?

    You explain to your care providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) that you do not have insurance and that you are a self-pay patient. The providers send their bills directly to you. You organize the bills, complete a Need Processing Form, and submit them to Samaritan Ministries. We will publish your need in our newsletter mailing, and the members assigned to your need will be asked to send their monthly shares directly to you through the mail. You then use the money you receive to pay your bills.

  28. What if I receive more money from members’ shares than the total amount of my final medical bills?

    Sometimes reductions in charges are obtained after the full amount of a need has already been assigned to the members, and the member with the need receives more than he still owes on his bills. Because these shares were given in trust that they would be used only for the medical need being published, a member receiving money has the responsibility to be faithful to that trust by seeing that any extra is sent to another member with an unmet need or to the Samaritan Ministries’ office to assist with the cost of negotiating the reductions. The SMI administrative office directs the members where to send any extra shares they receive.

  29. What happens to the extra if some members send more than their minimum share amount to a member in need?

    Because members understand our mutual sharing as a giving ministry, sometimes they give more than their share amount in a variety of ways. One way extra giving occurs is by members sending more than the assigned amount to those in need. These extra gifts from members are meant for those to whom they are given and are not expected to be sent on to anyone else.

  30. How long does it take to have a medical need published in the newsletter?

    The publishing turnaround time is normally 30-60 days from receipt of your bills and required information. If your Need Processing Form is correct and complete, and there are no ongoing financial negotiations with providers, your need will be published at the beginning of the second month after we receive your need. For example, a need received by the end of September would be processed in October and published at the beginning of November.

  31. What if someone assigned to give towards my need does not send their share?

    SMI will send you a checklist so that you can keep track of who were assigned to send to your need. If we learn that someone on your list has stopped sharing and will not be sending to you, that amount will be reassigned in the following month to a member who is sharing. You must be current in your sharing responsibilities and other member requirements to have a need published.

  32. Do you have a death provision?

    No, we have chosen not to have any sharing provision for death, beyond the related medical expenses.

  33. When did this ministry begin?

    We incorporated as an Illinois not-for-profit organization in September 1991. The next three years were dedicated to research and development. We have been actively sharing needs since September 1994.

  34. This sounds too good to be true! Does this really work?

    God is the only One Who has enough resources to provide for all of the needs of everyone. He has worked through Samaritan members in amazing ways to provide for our members’ medical needs, but He also has provided through other means.

    Past contributions by Samaritan members assisting one another are not any guarantee of future actions. There is not a promise/contract by SMI or the members to contribute toward any need you might have in the future. The only promise by SMI is to make qualifying medical needs known through the monthly newsletter mailing, so SMI members can give voluntary gifts to those members with needs.

  35. How many people are members of Samaritan Ministries’ Christian Health Care Newsletter?

    As of December 2014, we have more than 40,000 member households (more than 120,000 people).

  36. Is it possible to receive the monthly newsletter without becoming a member?

    Yes. Non-members who desire to pray for the ministry, follow its activities, and be blessed by the articles and testimonies, but not share financially in medical needs, can receive the newsletter each month for a suggested donation of $12 per year.

  37. Can you provide any references for your ministry?

    If you call 1-888-268-4377 we will attempt to provide names and numbers of members in your area who have had a need published.