WAYNESBORO, Va. – As Washington tangles over health insurance, many Americans are taking matters into their own hands.
"I wanted something that wasn't going to be the same sort of trap that I had been in," said Stephen Strosnider.
Strosnider is an attorney at a small law firm in Waynesboro, Virginia. His wife, Jennifer, is a stay-at-home mom and they have three young boys and a baby on the way.
Two years ago they paid $500 a month for insurance. The premiums have been steadily rising since then, and this year would have hit $1,200 a month – a 52 percent jump from where they started.
"We try and find the best deals that we can, and even the best deals that we could find were going up and up and, according to our insurance broker, everybody's was going up because of Obamacare. We could choose a different provider but the difference was 10 or 15 dollars a month, there wasn't going to be a huge savings whichever insurance company we went with," Strosnider explained.
A Leap of Faith into Christian Health Share
So he and his family took a leap of faith by approaching health care in a more biblical way, by joining a Christian health share ministry.
"Your brothers and sisters in Christ have committed themselves, as being part of this family that loves you enough to say, 'I'm going to help you out when your burden exceeds your ability to bear it,'" said Strosnider.
There are a number of Christian health sharing ministries including Samaritan Ministries, Christian Health Care Ministries and Liberty Health Share. The Strosniders chose Medi-Share.
Unlike traditional insurance companies, a health share collects monthly dues and then distributes the money to members who have medical bills that exceed an annual amount they've chosen to be responsible for.
"We've selected for our family to have our own household responsibility of $5,000 a year. So we know that out of our own pockets we're going to be responsible for $5,000 worth of health care costs and that's just our own responsibility that we'll take charge of," said Strosnider.
If medical needs exceed that amount in a given year, they notify their health share and receive a check to pay their health care providers.
"I'm responsible for it, but my fellow members are making a commitment that they're going to help me meet those responsibilities that exceed $5,000," said Strosnider.
Following a Biblical Model
The Strosniders feel that being a part of a Christian health share allows them to take some of the teachings that they've heard about in church and read about in the Bible – and live them out.
"We can see a picture of the Church in the book of Acts, chapter two, where the Church shares everything in common and the believers, they share their possessions and make sure that everybody is taken care of and that when there is a need, you meet it. We're also told to be responsible for our households and what I see is that Christian health shares help you do both of those things," said Strosnider.
There are two things that really stand out to the Strosniders about being a part of this type of ministry. First, they've received prayer when they called to ask a question or get more information about their coverage.
"It was really uplifting and encouraging and not a moment that you would ever associate with health care and insurance, at least I wouldn't have," Strosnider recalled.
Second, each month they receive an email about families helped by their share, encouraging them to send a note or prayer on the families' behalf.
"Every time I do that it helps me have the confidence and understanding that in my hour of need, when our family may need it, there are going to be other people out there that want to do the same thing," said Strosnider.
Limits of Christian Health Share Ministries
Since these are Christian health share ministries, there are limitations.
Members agree to abide by a Christian lifestyle. Failure to do so could lead to uncovered medical costs. For example, if you were involved in a car accident after drinking, you'd be required to pay your own health bills. Becoming pregnant out of wedlock would also not be covered.
The Strosniders believe their family would stay with their health share even if Washington succeeds in overhauling health care with lower premiums and better coverage.
"I feel that there is a way that I'm contributing to the family of Christ, that I'm doing now, that I can't do through traditional insurance and so I don't want to go back into a method that ignores the needs of my brothers and sisters," Strosnider said.