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Christian Conservatives Flee ObamaCare For Collectives

Religious families look for an alternative. The market at work.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives of Christian health care sharing services say that they’ve seen a surge in growth since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The collectives — Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Medi-Share are the three major ones — are formed by a pool of families who sign up for memberships and pay a certain amount every month into a pool, covering one anothers’ care. It’s a form of insurance, though neither of the company representatives BuzzFeed spoke to at today’s Values Voter Summit would call it that. All three have been around for 20 years, but have grown in the aftermath of a health care law that has been intensely unpopular among conservatives, especially religious ones.

An employee working at the Samaritan Ministries booth at the Values Voter Summit on Friday, who didn’t want to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak on the record, said that Samaritan has 22,000 member families and “we’ve seen a rise in interest” since Obamacare, though he didn’t have exact figures.

“There’s a lot of Christian families out there who, after the health care law, just said, okay, it’s time for us to take action on this. So we’ve seen some increase in interest,” he said.

“We have a computer program that effectively matches each share to a need,” the employee. There are different rates for singles and families, and the organization has handled bills up to $250,000, the employee said.

The Samaritan employee said that members won’t be subjected to the penalty that would kick in in 2014 because the health-care sharing ministries get an exemption.

But he wouldn’t comment on the law itself.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “We do not take a position on that.”

Christian Healthcare Ministries was set up a few booths away. The organization, based in Ohio, has a similar structure to Samaritan, though an employee at the booth said they have 30,000 participants. The organization says that members have contributed over $1 billion in healthcare costs in the 20 years of the organization’s existence.

“We’ve grown significantly” since Obamacare, said the employee, Joy Spriggs, though she didn’t have specific figures.

The other major player in this field is Medi-Share. The employee at the Samaritan booth said that the three collectives combined had 60,000 families.

That’s a small section of the population, but a significant portion of the Christian right, that have found a homegrown solution to the law.

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Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics, foreign affairs and international issues. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 52B1 92A9 D35B 3359 CF61 399B 0E8A 2948 10D0 8DD8
Contact Rosie Gray at rosie@buzzfeed.com
 
 
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