The State of the Ministry, 2017
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.
This rapid growth brought challenges in providing service to so many more members. The wait times members experienced when they contacted the Samaritan office became longer, reaching levels we found unacceptable. We asked for your prayers and patience as we hired and trained additional staff members.
We also accelerated our efforts to develop Dash, our online suite of applications you can use to manage your membership, and the results have been exciting. Just two short months after online need creation was released, 60 percent of new needs are being started online. Online bill submission was launched on December 7. These changes have provided greater convenience for our members and have enabled our staff to give more personal attention where it is most needed. We are back to answering most calls live and responding to emails in 1 to 2 business days.
Thank you to all of you who have given us valuable feedback as we develop Dash. We encourage all of you to visit Dash.SamaritanMinistries.org to check it out.
Many members continue to request options for sending shares electronically and interacting with other members online. Building these capabilities is a major undertaking that we will continue in 2017. Please be praying for us.
Prorating was necessary for three months
As we approached mid-year, another challenge developed. The total dollar amount of needs submitted for publication in May, June, and July increased dramatically, and it was necessary to prorate. During those months, members with needs that didn’t have discounts of 20 percent or more had only 80 percent of the need amounts they submitted published. When we made the share assignments for those months, we asked each household to considering giving extra, and to pray that God would provide for each need in full. We have stayed in contact with those members whose needs were prorated to see how God has provided.
Some have reported that they received extra gifts from the members assigned to share with them. Others received reductions from their providers, so that the prorated amount was enough to meet their entire need. Still others received help from the Member Assistance Fund that other members donated toward. Some told us that the remaining unpublished amount was a burden they could bear themselves, and they didn’t want additional help.
Shortly before this newsletter went to press, we did a final round of checking with members who had prorated needs, and we are not aware of any needs that God has not provided for. He is truly the One Who provides for all of our needs. Give thanks and praise to Him!
Members approved a share increase
The prorating in May, June, and July led to a share increase proposal from the Samaritan Board for the members to vote on. A 22 percent increase in the share amounts was approved with the required 60 percent of the weighted member votes cast.
We are thankful that in the months following the share increase, the amount of needs submitted has not increased at the same rate as in the months when we were prorating. While prorating would have continued to be necessary without the share increase, the entire share increase was only needed in October. In September, November, December, and January, not all of the available share money was needed, so there have been share reductions.
We praise God that in a health care environment where huge increases in insurance costs are very common, God has provided for Samaritan members to meet one another’s health care needs.
Thank you for your feedback
Soon after mailing the ballots for the share increase, we began receiving comments from some members, asking questions about the share increase ballot and making suggestions for ways members could reduce their health care costs. In response, we arranged and broadcast our first-ever live online town hall meeting to answer some of these questions and comments.
One of the advantages Samaritan Ministries’ members enjoy is that our efforts to save money on health care services and seek reductions in charges can actually make a difference in how much share money is needed. We can each do our best to keep the monthly share lower for everyone. We are making increased efforts to help members find ways to receive reductions in the charges for our health care.
Surprises in the November general election
Following the surprising election results in November, the world has been abuzz with predictions of possible changes. Our members have been asking how the new political environment will affect the Affordable Care Act and Samaritan Ministries. It appears likely that there will be opportunities for changes in health care and tax laws that we previously thought would be impossible.
Obviously we cannot know with certainty what changes in the health care laws will be proposed or enacted. We do know that in every conceivable situation, there will be a need for Christians to put our trust in Jesus Christ and work together to care for one another
(I John 4:20-21). We will be updating you in the newsletter and by email of any new developments and will possibly be asking you to contact your elected representatives if the need arises. Please be on the alert and ready to help.
The Board of Directors election
Following the November general elections, Samaritan members had another opportunity to vote. One pastor commented that in the government elections, he didn’t like the choices he had. In the Samaritan election, he had trouble deciding how to vote because he liked all four candidates.
Members elected incumbent Board member Richard Driggers and Ben Boyd. We appreciate the willingness of all four candidates to make themselves available, and we thank Joe Musser for his term of service on the Board.
Always stay alert in prayer
There is no shortage of pundits stepping up to make predictions, but only God knows the future. What we do know is that God turns the king’s heart wherever He wills (Proverbs 21:1) and that we are commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3). How should we be praying for our country in 2017? Here are some suggestions.
Pray for Samaritan’s public policy efforts—pray that legislation would be passed to allow health care sharing members to have Health Savings Accounts and that existing tax law would be clarified to permit income tax deductions of monthly health care sharing amounts and any fees.
Pray especially for the Body of Christ, that God’s people would repent and turn to Him and that He would heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Pray that Christians and all Americans will be awakened to these truths:
- The only hope for reforming our health care system is turning to God and obeying His Word.
- More regulations, mandates, insurance, and taxes aren’t going to make a better health care system.
- In order to have quality health care at an affordable price, we must turn to Biblical understandings of private property, personal responsibility, free markets, and the generous charity of a free people.
- The government taxing some citizens and distributing it to others is not charity, but is unjust, even if done in the name of health care.
- Reach out to others.
This past year was a time of strong growth in Samaritan membership, and member referrals remain a major factor. Please continue to tell fellow Christians about this Biblical way of sharing one another’s health care needs. In this time of uncertainty and change, there is more need than ever for Christians to join together to help meet one another’s needs. Let’s be like the early church in Jerusalem and talk about it wherever we go.
Give thanks to God
Let us not forget to thank God that He provided a way for the religious freedom of members of health care sharing ministries to be protected when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Praise God we don’t have to be subject to a mandate requiring us to enter into an insurance contract, which often covers abortion and other unbiblical practices (See ObamacareAbortion.com).
It is a joy to see God’s faithfulness to all of us. He has brought us through an exciting and challenging year. He is the reason for the survival and success of Samaritan Ministries. In the year ahead, let us continue to depend on Him to meet all of our needs, including our health care.
For The Kingdom!
Ted A. Pittenger
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