The State of the Ministry, 2018

Ted Pittenger, Founder and President  ·  Dec 31, 2017

As I reflect on how God has brought us through another year of challenge, growth, and change at Samaritan, I am struck by how the member letters we receive tell that story. I want to share some of them with you as we look ahead to the challenges of 2018, starting with one from Patricia:

"God is a faithful God, yesterday, today, and forever. He always meets our needs!"

Patricia is expressing the first of Samaritan Ministries' Foundational Principles:

Jesus Christ is our Provider for every need. As the Creator of all things, He is the only One with all the resources necessary to meet every need that occurs in His creation.

This truth is basic to the life of every believer and critical for the continued success of our health care sharing ministry. It not only reminds us that we are completely dependent on Him, but also of the temptation to place our faith in other things.

We need to recognize that many people today are placing their hope for health care in things that are finite: doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, new technologies, insurance contracts, and government programs. Only God is able to truly meet our needs, which is why our first step when facing any kind of need should be to look to Him in prayer. And that brings me to our next member letter, from Samuel:

"I’ve been so blessed to be a part of this ministry. It’s been wonderful for all my medical bills. But even more important were all the prayers, encouraging notes, Scriptures, and personal words. They truly were from the Lord."

Samuel is expressing another of Samaritan’s Foundational Principles:

Our needs are more than physical. Human beings are more than just a collection of cells, and we have needs that go beyond the physical body. Our members come together to meet the financial, physical, and spiritual aspects of each medical need.

We have stacks of letters like Samuel’s, telling us that direct member-to-member ministry to the spiritual dimensions of the need makes all the difference for getting through a health care trial. That is why we ask every member to commit to praying and sending a note of encouragement to the member you are assigned to each month.

For more about how that kind of ministry helped the Holler family persevere through the trial of a brain tumor check out this article.

A Biblical way

We also get many letters contrasting Samaritan’s Biblical approach with what the world has to offer.

Carrie wrote to say she was relieved to find Samaritan because her insurance covered abortion.

James wrote, “God has divinely opened a door for believers to be able to help each other instead of being subject to an unconstitutional government mandate.”

Lisa said that the Affordable Care Act had “destroyed” her insurance by causing her premiums, co-pays, and deductible to skyrocket. Her family couldn’t find any insurance options for less than $1,500 a month.

Phil and Amanda struggled to afford insurance cost increases for years, only to have their plan cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act. The replacement offered wouldn’t even be accepted by providers in their area.

Donna wrote that her insurance had made it nearly impossible to get the care she needed because of waiting on complicated approval processes and medical referrals. With Samaritan she doesn’t have to worry about the red tape.

In an article titled, “The case for being uninsured,” member Jane Orient, a doctor and columnist, wrote this:

If most bills were paid directly instead of through a third party, medical care would cost far less. Wouldn’t that be better for everybody? Everybody—except those who profit from gaming the system. Too much “insurance” (third-party payment) is the problem—not the solution. The right to be uninsured is a necessary safeguard—not a threat to the system.

These comments remind me of how important it is for Christians to be applying a Biblical worldview to all areas of life, including health care, as we seek to develop ways of ministering to one another that are ethical, compassionate, and effective. That is our desire at Samaritan, and we need every member engaged to realize that vision.

New Dash tools

It is encouraging to receive letters about how members are carefully stewarding resources, especially by using the new tools on Dash: Healthcare Bluebook and MediBid.

  • Lesli used Bluebook to get $500 off an out-of-line ER bill.
  • Joseph saved $500 on a single lab test.
  • Cindy got knee surgery for $3,500 using MediBid. She could have easily paid $15,000 or more.
  • Doris drove two hours to Surgery Center of Oklahoma for hip surgery and saved $25,000.
  • Kim used MediBid to save more than $1,000 on an MRI.
  • Shanna diligently negotiated with the hospital when her baby was born prematurely, receiving 90 percent discounts on more than $1 million in bills!
  • Toby refused to settle for token discounts offered on his wife’s hospital bills, and saved more than $50,000 that will go to another member’s needs.

We believe that patients who have the responsibility and the freedom to engage in their own health care decisions are the key to true, free-market health care reform!

Share reductions

Engaged members also helped make it possible to reduce the share in four out of 12 months in 2017. We are thankful for God’s provision in a time when overall health care costs continue to increase dramatically. Mindy wrote us, “We are so thankful for the reduced shares. It has helped us through a challenging time financially.”

Special Prayer Needs

Members also write to share how they were blessed by receiving help from other members for Special Prayer Needs. Anna commented, “I now see how small amounts can add up and bless someone in a big way. I am very thankful.”

There are about $1 million in these Special Prayer Needs each month, and I encourage you to consider making a recurring donation by visiting the donation page.

Stewarding together

There are even more aspects of stewardship members mention. John said saving on health care by joining Samaritan helped him give more to his church. Peter and Mary wrote that the savings helped them do better financial planning.

I hope you’ll take the time to read articles in this month’s newsletter about stewardship and consider how God may be leading you to do your part. We also need you to pray for those of us working on the Samaritan staff, that we would make wise decisions for the ministry.

We are committed to remaining debt free as a ministry and are thankful we are in a good financial position. The audit of our July 2016-June 2017 fiscal year was recently completed, and you can read the annual report in the Board of Directors’ section on the Member Connect app on Dash.

Please pray for the Board as we seek the Lord’s leading in 2018. One major item on our January meeting agenda is how we might be able to deploy even more tools to improve the relationship between members and providers. We covet your prayers.

ESharing is here!

ESharing using PayPal was launched in November, and member participation has been taking off. In addition to speeding up the transfer of funds, it has a messaging feature that allows members to send notes of encouragement by email as well. 

Joshua commented, “LOVE the new PayPal option. So much easier and quicker to send and receive. Thank you for adding this feature!”

If you haven’t signed up for eSharing, you’ll see the option to do so in your Dash account. Look for more payment options to be added in 2018.

Basic membership level launched

Many people had asked for a lower monthly Share in exchange for paying more of the medical costs when they have a Need. The Basic membership level, launched in October, gives them that option.

Grace emailed us, “Thank you so much for the new Basic membership level. I appreciate the work you put into considering and implementing it.”

Strong growth continues

Debbie wrote that receiving so much encouragement from members during her need caused her to tell people about Samaritan “so they can experience the love and support I have been blessed with.”

Todd and Amy said they have two married daughters who are now second generation members, and they have been blessed by referral credits as they tell many friends about their experience with Samaritan.

Member referrals continue to be our largest source of growth, and I encourage you to think about fellow Christians who need to know about this Biblical way of sharing health care needs. Consider passing along this article to someone, especially those in full-time ministry, the self-employed, and those changing jobs. As I write this article, we are still awaiting final numbers, but it appears our net growth in 2017 was about 10 percent.

New ways to get member input

We’ve begun holding member meetings in conjunction with some of our Board meetings, so members can interact directly with our Board and staff. We’ve had three so far, and fellow shipping and worshiping together has been inspiring.

We assembled a Member Advisory Team with almost 1,000 members who have volunteered to give us regular feedback. We also have a Member Experience team on staff, making sure member input is presented each week to other teams who can address the concerns.

There’s also a new way for members to interact with one another: the Member Connect app on Dash. Members are sharing advice about wide range of issues: particular health care conditions, dealing with providers, where to buy EpiPens, using Direct Primary Care, parenting teens, and the list goes on.

My favorite member comment

I’ll close with this note from Morrison, all the way up in North Pole, Alaska:

This is the kind of ministry we should be doing as the Church. It was a pleasure to report to unbelieving doctors and medical staff how this works, which opened the door to share Christ’s love with them.

Praise the Lord and Amen!

Please continue to pray for God’s provision, protection, and direction as together we carry out this ministry. Pray that the number of believers who depend on God, and not government or other human institutions, will continue to increase, and also that unbelievers will come to faith in Jesus Christ as they see the love His people have for one another.

We thank God for your participation and partnership in this amazing work of God.

For The Kingdom!

Ted A. Pittenger

Founder & International President