While I was traveling through Peoria on business, I took a quick detour to the headquarters of Samaritan Ministries. My wife and I have been members since we married in 2009.

Samaritan is a health care sharing ministry. It is not health insurance; it is better. Each month, Audra and I sent a check directly to another member who has a medical need. When we have a medical need (totaling over $300), we submit information to Samaritan, and other members start sending checks directly to us. It is simple. And it works.

Once a year, we send our monthly share to the Samaritan headquarters to pay for administration. The organization has been expanding offices and adding staff rapidly, as the number of members has nearly quadrupled over the past six years.

When we joined, there were about 12,000 member households. By 2011, the ministry had grown to 18,000 households, and it moved into its current headquarters. As of this week, 45,000 member households are helping each other pay their medical bills. Last month that meant over $11 million.

I was already impressed with the way Samaritan works, and visiting their headquarters confirmed that it is a well-run organization with a heart to serve the Lord and the members. My tour guide, Jimmy, was excited about his job and made me feel like part of the team.

Samaritan has guidelines on what it will and won't cover. If you already have health insurance and an ongoing medical condition, sticking with your current plan is probably your best option. However, Samaritan offers many advantages over traditional health insurance:.

  1. It is not tied to a job. Samaritan membership is yours to keep regardless of your job (employed by a company, self-employed, missionary, whatever).
  2. It follows you anywhere in the world. You are not bound to a subset of plan-approved doctors and hospitals.
  3. It encourages patients to pay attention to costs and explore options. When an insurance company (or the government) is paying for medical care, people tend not to care about how much certain procedures cost. That leads to ballooning costs.
  4. It is Christ-focused, with staff and members praying for and encouraging each other.

With Samaritan, we are ultimately responsible for paying bills, and other members help us pay them. Samaritan provides guidance and tools for getting the best rates, which can mean traveling to another provider or even going out of the country for certain procedures. When one member saves on medical care, that keeps costs down for everyone else.

I am well-pleased with Samaritan Ministries, and I highly encourage other disciples of Christ to look into what they offer.