WASHINGTON, IL - Health care sharing ministries is one way Bible-believing Christians are banding together to meet the high costs of medical care. One of the nation's largest groups - Samaritan Ministries International - was founded by Washington Illinois resident Ted Pittenger 20 years ago.
Now the group has 36,000 household members and share $10 Million a month meeting each other's medical care needs.
Samaritan Ministries spokesman Mike Miller said the group's numbers have soared in the last year.
"Of course, health care has become a hot topic and more people are aware of health care options," Miller said.
Pittenger, the group's founder, worked without pay and was the ministry’s only official staff member for several years. When he needed extra help with graphic design or proofreading, or someone to be a “sounding board,” he relied on his wife, Shari.
"There were several times in the early days of the ministry when it appeared that it might not become established," the group's website says, but today households from all 50 states and several foreign countries, are actively sharing health care needs through Samaritan Ministries.
On top of sharing financial needs, the group's members pray for one another and send notes of encouragement. The monthly share for a family of any size has never exceeded $405, the website says, and is even less for singles, couples, and single-parent families.
The only requirement? That the family adhere to Biblical values, attend church regularly and be willing to bear and pray for others' financial burdens. The group has not-for-profit status in Illinois.
That type of Christian living is something that comes naturally to two Illinoisans that minister at the State Capitol - Concerned Christian Americans' Rev. Bob VandenBosch and Capitol Commission's Shaun Lewis. Both men were featured in the Samaritan Ministries July 2014 newsletter - and both of their families are enrolled in Samaritan Ministries.
Samaritan MInistries is one of three similar health care sharing groups that are reporting their numbers skyrocketing since ObamaCare went into effect. Enrollees jumped by at least 100,000 over the last year to more than 300,000 through mid-April, the deadline to enroll in an Obamacare plan. About 23,700 enrollees live in California, Mercury News reports.
So how does this sharing plan work?
Samaritan Ministries mails a newsletter to all of the member households once a month. Included in the newsletter is an individualized monthly share notice assigning that household to another member's medical need. Members are asked to mail their monthly share directly to another member, to include a note of encouragement and to pray for the member in need.
The current monthly share is $165 for singles, $315 for a couple, $230 for a single-parent family and $370 for a family.
Testimonies from Samaritan Ministries' health sharing plan include two pastors from a Bible church in Eureka Illinois:
More to come Friday on this topic.