An event Sept. 29 in Chattanooga examined the benefits in medical crises of a cost-sharing Christian group, Samaritan Ministries, of which I am a member. Email me through this website with your phone number and I’ll call you to answer your questions about the possibility of joining Samaritan Ministries. — DJT
By David Tulis
With great insouciance, a son, 18, informs me, “Dad, I just laid my bike down just near Advance Auto.” In biker slang, he’s telling me he’s had an accident of the sliding-on-the-pavement variety as opposed to a head-over-heels crash vaulting him over the roof of a vehicle.
An adventure begins, our trek from an emergency room at Memorial Hixson to surgery next day at the hospital’s main campus in Chattanooga. The lad rolls in under anesthesia and the surgeon installs a plate in a fractured wrist. The mending will be long enough to delay entry into the Marine Corps.
The family adventure in the world of medical treatment offers a bright spot in personal economy — in local economy principles brought to life through the intervention of families across the U.S. to help Chattanoogans facing steep bills. Our story is about a rescue in a decentralized free market relationship vs. a centralized bureaucratic claims hierarchy.
I am a member of Samaritan Ministries and am not part of the world of corporate insurance, which is largely responsible for medical inflation, as it’s called. Third-party payment schemes make customers insensitive to costs. Insurance builds into medical prices the cost of administration and over-use of medical resources used by those who don’t pay for them.
Being a member of Samaritan Ministries means I am a cash customer for Memorial. Routinely in medical crisis, few pay up front and patients become debtors. The economic environment is one like that marking a recession or depression, when liquid funds are scarce. Cash is king. Cash buys the discount.
In my case, a proposed hospital bill of F$28,000 is reduced upfront to F$14,000, with a third payable immediately. My wife, Jeannette, and I can’t swing the 33 percent that hour, but she comes close with a check for F$3,000. I will approach Memorial’s business office with another F$6,000 drawn from savings and propose a deeper discount with the balance promised in 90 days. I give this assurance as a Samaritan member, making me an attractive customer. I submit my bills to Samaritan, and its members reimburse me within about 20 days after my family’s situation is published. I write a final check to pay my obligation.
People in insurance don’t bother with prices. They are not price conscious. In contrast, as a Samaritan member, I have every interest in reducing the cost to my family, and to the Christian families who are effectively part of my local economy. I negotiate. I fight for good service at the lowest possible cost. I am price conscious on behalf of the Christian families who covenant with me to support our thousands of members. They support me; I support them.
Grace theory vs. contractual rights
The advantages of Samaritan over insurance are several. It is not risk pooling by contract, your benefits coming as enforceable legal right (amid a sea of stipulations and limitations). Rather, your benefits come as a mercy, from one Christian to another. Samaritan’s is a ministry of publication. The sick or injured person has his needs PUBLISHED, and other Christians are assigned to assist him in his financial distress after a hospital stay or illness. That families are assigned to each other does not diminish voluntary and cooperative nature of the arrangement. In insurance, you pay premiums and have a right to benefits, if the condition meets requirements. Samaritan members support each other apart from any legal claim, in cheerful freewill.
Another advantage of Samaritan is that I am compensated at 100 percent. I make all my own choices for doctor. No in-network and non-network categories. The member chooses the best or nearest doctor or hospital for care. No nationing, in other words, familiar to those in corporate insurance and in government programs such as Medicare.
The federal takeover of medical insurance prevents accurate pricing and makes care providers more dependent than they already are. With Obamacare everyone is supposed to have the blessing of insurance. But deductibles are so high that insurance does nothing to prevent ruin for many families with little liquidity.
Samaritan’s website is http://samaritanministries.org/ . Please use my name as a referral, and I would be most grateful.
— David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at Hot News Talk Radio 1240 and 910 AM, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.