Celebrating 25 years of 'different' next month

By Samaritan Ministries  ·  Aug 22, 2019

About the same time Samaritan Ministries was starting up 25 years ago, Arby’s ran an ad campaign with this tagline: “Arby’s is different. Different is good.” The idea was that you could go a lot of places to get a hamburger, but if you are looking for something different, come to Arby’s for some roast beef.

When you tell your friends about Samaritan Ministries we hope you’ll convey that sentiment: “Samaritan is different. Different is good.”

We don’t want to be just another health care “hamburger joint.” We want to offer innovative, Christ-honoring service that leads the way in establishing health care sharing best practices and impacts our health care system for the glory of God.

Ten years ago we had just such an opportunity in working to ensure health care sharing was recognized in the Affordable Care Act, and, by God’s grace, we are committed to continuing to honor Jesus Christ, remain faithful to the Scriptures, and advance God’s kingdom in all aspects of ministry. That goes for every interaction with members, staff, partners, and providers, and also the way we tell the world about Samaritan.

This commitment means that at times we will intentionally choose a different approach from other health care sharing organizations when they demonstrate practices that we believe undermine Christian values. It also means that we’re different from health insurance, as we have different operating philosophies based on different worldviews. We recognize that God uses insurance to care for His people and we are grateful for that. However, we believe that as Christians our shared faith in Jesus Christ should be woven throughout every aspect of our lives, including our participation in Christian community within health care. That’s what Samaritan Ministries is all about.

Here are some of the key philosophical and practical differences:

An Expression of Shared Faith: Samaritan’s membership agreement makes it clear that we are a community of Christians helping other Christians. The ministry doesn’t pay for anything, but members commit to faithfully share with one another based on their religious convictions and according to the ministry Guidelines. Insurance does not reflect or rely upon shared values, but is based on detailed contractual obligations to pay for certain treatments at certain facilities, and is open to everyone willing to send the company a check. And since shared faith includes God providing for needs through his people, Samaritan never forces members to apply for government welfare programs rather than share a Need.

Direct Sharing from One Christian to Another: As a community of Christians, Samaritan members send Shares directly to one another and pay their own medical bills rather than send shares to an organization to administer. A small part of the Shares comes to the organization for administrative costs. Insurance companies pool and manage funds that are used to pay health care providers.

Nonprofit Charity, Member-Led: Samaritan is an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) religious charity administering a sharing ministry subject to state and federal laws that govern charities. The federal Affordable Care Act recognizes health care sharing, and on the state level 30 state safe harbor provisions recognize in insurance codes that health care sharing is not insurance. Samaritan is overseen by a member-led Board of Directors, a majority of which is elected by members. We have an annual independent audit and annual report that are available to members (see Member Connect in your Dash Account, under the Board section). Most health insurance companies are for-profit, and all their operations are regulated by extensive state and federal law.

These realities will cause some people to choose insurance, but others, based on the same information, will conclude that the health care sharing model is something that resonates with them and is consistent with their Christian convictions. Different is good!

As we celebrate our 25th year in ministry, we should continue to place our trust in God and depend on Him in prayer.

Samaritan leadership

Recognizing these key differences is also important in light of recent negative headlines about a growing number of health care sharing organizations that operate differently from Samaritan Ministries. You may have noticed stories reporting on how one organization has come under fire in several states, facing a lawsuit from multiple members, fines from a Department of Insurance, and cease and desist orders. Scripture tells us not to jump to conclusions about a developing situation (Proverbs 18:13,17), but these episodes should remind us to remain committed to Biblical principles that have guided us through 25 years of ministry.

The organizations in question have been accused of disingenuously marketing themselves as insurance with a facade of religiosity, and a few people have complained of being given a false impression of what they were agreeing to. Whether the accusation is true or not, we want to guard against this possibility at Samaritan Ministries. We won’t use misleading lead-generation tactics that bait and switch, and we won’t use insurance agents to promote Samaritan Ministries. We continue to believe that the best advertising is a good reputation that spreads by word of mouth, and we encourage you to refer your friends and receive a $100 credit on your Share for those who join.

As we celebrate our 25th year in ministry, we should continue to place our trust in God and depend on Him in prayer. We can ask Him that this recent controversy be resolved for the good of all and in a way that preserves a good reputation for health care sharing. We can ask him to grow Samaritan Ministries by inspiring fellow believers to apply a Christian worldview to health care. We can ask Him to help us faithfully and boldly share a vision for health care that is different.