Best practices for health care sharing ministries
As a community of Christians helping other Christians with their health care needs, for more than 25 years Samaritan Ministries’ members have supported one another through the direct sharing of financial, emotional, and spiritual support. In our commitment to uphold our Biblical ethics, honor our members, and maintain the highest standards for sustainable governance and practice, we have established and abide by the Health Care Sharing Best Practices listed below.
We believe it is in your best interest to consider the commitments and practices of any membership organization, including a health care sharing ministry, prior to joining. As a part of our ongoing desire for transparency and consumer education, as well as promoting a healthy environment for health care sharing ministries around the world, we publicly provide our ministry’s Health Care Sharing Best Practices for consideration.
A health care sharing ministry posts a clearly understandable mission statement, communicating that health care sharing should be an outward expression of an inward Christian faith that serves as a witness to a watching world of how the Body of Christ can bear one another’s burdens in service to one another.
- A health care sharing ministry conforms with the Federal Government's statutory definition of a qualifying Health Care Sharing Ministry (HCSM) as written in 26 USC § 5000A(d)(2)(B)(ii) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
- A health care sharing ministry organizes and operates in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code's definition of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. As a 501(c)(3), the ministry shall annually file a 990 form with the IRS.
- A health care sharing ministry should be governed by an independent Board of Directors, the majority of whom are selected by the membership. The Board shall meet regularly to assist the executive team in the execution of the health care sharing ministry’s mission in service to its members.
- A health care sharing ministry should produce financial statements annually using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and should be annually audited by an independent, certified public accountant.
- A health care sharing ministry should make these audited financial statements available to the public upon request.
- A health care sharing ministry should establish and follow a conflict of interest policy in which any transaction between the ministry and
- any member of the ministry’s Board of Directors
- any member of its management
- or any person or organization related to a member of the Board or management
- A health care sharing ministry primarily acts as a facilitator for the bearing of medical burdens by strengthening the member-to-member connection that occurs through the voluntary medical burden-sharing process.
- A health care sharing ministry should ensure that member dollars go primarily to meet medical needs. It is recommended that for every dollar of monthly shares contributed by members, a minimum of 80 cents will be used for medical needs, maintaining a total administrative and program cost of less than 20%.
- A health care sharing ministry should not require their members to apply for government assistance or state aid as part of the ministry’s sharing process.
- A health care sharing ministry should not use health insurance agents, health insurance agencies, health insurance brokers, health insurance producers, or health insurance representatives.
- A health care sharing ministry should maintain regular monthly share amounts for its members and communicates to members the process for any change in the share amounts.
- A health care sharing ministry does not assume any transfer of medical risk from its members or make any guarantee of payment for any expenses.
- A health care sharing ministry should maintain a clearly orthodox Christian statement of faith and will only accept families and individuals who can voluntarily agree with the statement of faith as well as its guidelines for health care sharing.
- A health care sharing ministry should communicate to its members every month the total dollar amount of medical needs that were shared among the membership in the prior month.
- A health care sharing ministry should clearly communicate the following information to those who are interested in joining the ministry:
- The health care sharing ministry is not an insurance company, nor does it offer any insurance product.
- The sharing of medical costs is completely voluntary, and neither member nor the health care sharing ministry is compelled by law to pay the costs for medical bills submitted for sharing, although failure to do so may lead to that member’s removal from the ministry.
- All members will maintain their legal responsibility to pay for the medical bills they incur irrespective of whether they receive payment from the voluntary actions of other members or the ministry through the sharing process.
Why accreditation matters!
The Healthcare Sharing Accreditation Board examines dozens of critical organizational characteristics to determine if a healthcare sharing ministry meets the highest standards of quality and ethical business practices, and established demanding standards against which applicant organizations are evaluated. These include, but are not limited to, standards in the following categories:
- Legal structure and governance
- Organizational management and compensation
- Conflicts of interest and related party transactions
- External communications and marketing
- Enrollment processes
- Written acknowledgments from members
- Published sharing guidelines
- Financial sharing processes, including processing time, dispute resolution and appeals
- Total amounts shared and not shared among members
- Ratio of administrative overhead expenses to programmatic expenses
- Membership contribution guidelines and management processes
- Audited financial statements and IRS Form 990
The professional achievements of the Healthcare Sharing Accreditation Board board members conducting evaluations make accreditation that much more consequential. Samaritan Ministries International received accreditation in 2023.
We are a certified health care sharing ministry
Samaritan Ministry received a letter of certification as a recognized health care sharing ministry by the Department of Health & Human Services (via Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). View Samaritan Ministries' certification letter.
Samaritan Ministries also has a yearly independent audit available upon request. Samaritan Ministries files a federal form 990 annually, and it is available to the public. Samaritan Ministries also has an annual report available upon request.
Health care sharing ministries and the ACA
As a certified health care sharing ministry, members of Samaritan Ministries are exempt from the Federal health care law’s (Affordable Care Act) requirement that individuals purchase insurance or pay a penalty-tax (see 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d) (2) (B)).