HDNet’s “Dan Rather Reports” Investigates an Alternative To Health Insurance

Colette Carey
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“Do Unto Others” sheds some light on Health Care Sharing Ministries and whether or not they are a viable alternative to mandated health care

DALLAS (March 17, 2011) – The topic of affordable health care for all has been at the forefront of the U.S. political landscape for years and Tuesday’s “Dan Rather Reports” will take a look at one alternative to the government-mandated insurance included in President Obama’s Health Care bill.

For almost thirty years, so-called “health care sharing ministries” have existed as a way for Christians to share each other’s medical bills, and avoid paying for other people’s treatments they find morally objectionable. But the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that every American buy health insurance threatened to put the ministries out of business. Who would sign up if they already had insurance? So the ministries lobbied Congress and got a carve-out for their members. And whether they intended it or not, that carve-out opened up a huge market: Americans who want to resist the health care law by “opting out.” The ministries are gaining more followers every day.

This is how the system works. Instead of sending a monthly premium payment to one’s insurance company, your monthly fee – just $135 for an individual, plus a $170 annual administrative fee – is instead sent directly to a person in need. The ministries require that each member agree to sign a “Declaration of Faith” and to prove that he or she goes to Church. You must also promise not to smoke, take drugs or engage in extramarital sex.

“I get to write a check to an individual, and I know 100 percent of that money is going to help that individual,” said Pastor Michael Holtzinger, who is a member of Samaritan International, the biggest of the health care sharing ministries.

But, there are many who believe that the long term financial security for these types of organizations is in serious doubt. Not to mention critics’ accusations that care not reimbursed by the ministries may put additional burdens on an already taxed health-care system.

“Uncompensated care is paid for by taxpayers who support the public health system, and by those of us who have health insurance,” said Illinois State Insurance Director, Michael McRaith. “Our premiums are increased to cover the cost of those people who do not have health insurance.”

Do these health care sharing ministries really provide a viable option to traditional health insurance, or are they an empty promise that draws in, and may leave hanging, Americans angry about changes in our health care system?

“Dan Rather Reports: Do Unto Others” premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, March 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET with an encore at 11:00 p.m. ET.

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