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The Catholic Campaign for Human Development

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Alternatives for Catholics to the New Health Care Regulations

 

Christian healthcare-sharing ministries have been around for more than two decades as a creative approach to handling the growing costs of medical care. The largest players include Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries International and Christian Healthcare Ministries. They market themselves as alternatives to health insurance, though they themselves are not insurance companies but nonprofits.

 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a section that exempts members of health care- sharing ministries from purchasing insurance. The Amish, Mennonite, and Indian tribal communities are exempt from the penalty to be placed on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance by 2014. Christian health care-sharing ministries have grown in popularity and success ever since the Old Order Amish Church Fund began the modernera of burden-bearing during the 1960’s. They receive no funding or grants from government sources.

 

Medical costs are "shared," not pooled as they are with insurance companies. Also, members can choose to leave the plan whenever they wish. Members themselves vote on what medical procedures should be shared. Health care sharing simply means that a certain group of members share in one another's health care costs. Health care sharing offers Christians a way to carry one another's burdens by paying for one another's medical bills while offering prayers and encouragement as well.

 

Christian healthcare-sharing ministries, for the most part, do not turn people away, cancel their membership or raise their monthly financial “contributions” because of expensive illnesses. Most healthcare-sharing ministries require some sort of evaluation of individuals and families to ensure adherence to Christian values, and subsequently, health values such as non-smoking, excessive drinking, etc., before membership.

 

Participants in these ministries commit to a “statement of faith” and a monthly contribution, similar to a premium, based on their desired level of coverage. They are free to choose their own doctors. They then submit claims for qualifying medical needs.

 

In general, depending on which health care-sharing plan the member belongs to, members’ fees are either sent directly to another participating member who has a medical bill to pay or to a central office. These monthly fees can range anywhere from $50 to $500 per member. Members must also pay a yearly administrative fee. Medi-Share has the funds sent to a bank account, then distributed. Everything is done digitally, so members log on to see where their money is going. In the case of Samaritan Ministries, members receive a letter in the mail telling them to send a check to a specific member in need each month.

 

As nonprofits, Christian health care- sharing ministries aren't required to follow the same state and federal regulations as health insurance companies. They are largely unregulated, except by themselves. This means members cannot go to a state insurance commissioner with a complaint; rates aren't reviewed by an independent regulator, and there is no way to ensure they are following anti-discrimination laws. Unlike an insurance company, there is no obligation to pay, and funding is based upon the amount of money available, but the system has been shown to work well and cover all costs adequately. In examining the current health sharing plans in existence, it has been found they have a good history, and there has never been an issue with paying.

 

The Christian healthcaresharing plans currently in existence include about 40,000 – 50,000 people each, of all faiths, and are growing rapidly. Due to its structure, a health share plan generally ends up costing both the employer and the employee less than an insurance plan. It’s a more cost-effective measure for families. As an example a Samaritan Ministries family will pay just $320 a month in "shares," the ministry equivalent of premiums. At a time when the average monthly health-insurance cost for a family of four is slightly more than $1,500, the savings can be substantial. It will be no surprise that healthcare fees will go up substantially when ACA is implemented. The previously uninsured were not covered due to costs, however, now they will be covered, and the costs will increase for everyone. Also, the government will add a new “tax” to ensure a base amount available for emergencies.

 

Some members generally must pay out of pocket for preventive care like wellness checkups for children and routine tests such as mammograms. Other ministries pay only when a bill is more than $300 and only if it falls within guidelines voted on by the ministry's members. For example, an unwed woman's maternity care is covered only in rape cases. None of the ministries pay for abortion or contraceptives.

 

A new Catholic health care-sharing ministry, Immaculata Management Group, Inc. (IMC),will be overseeing a new health care share plan, called Solidarity HealthShare, which is expected to be functioning by January 1, 2013. They state they offer an alternative to the HHS mandate, however all of the other three non-Catholic groups are also an alternative to the HHS mandate.

 

 IMC will also have a “statement of faith” broad enough to include members of other religions who wish to join. A unique advantage is that it will provide coverage of pre-existing conditions. Because the mandate will not apply to health sharing ministries that have existed since Dec 31, 1999,IMC is partnering with one of the three existing health sharing ministries already meeting this requirement in order to qualify for the complete exemption.

 

For more information, contact any of the following health care-sharing ministries:

 

Medi-Share: Website, www.medi-share.org; phone 866-606-7390

Samaritan Ministries International: Website, www.samaritanministries.org; Phone 888-268-4377

Christian Healthcare Ministries: Website, www.cbnews.org; Phone,800-791-6225

Solidarity HealthShare: Website www.SolidarityHealthShare.com, but as of this date it is still under construction. Phone is 486-382-6328

 

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The Catholic Campaign for Human Development

By Stephanie Block

 

            The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an annual collection of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.  It was launched in 1970 with three purposes. The first and best understood of these is the funding of economic self-help projects run by the poor as a way of addressing domestic poverty. The second purpose is the support of social change. 

CHD’s founding resolution stated that “the magnitude and complexity of poverty in the U.S. in a time of rapid social change...calls for the creation of a new source of financial capital that can be allocated for specific social projects aimed at eliminating the very causes of poverty....There is an evident need for funds designated to be used for organized groups of white and minority poor to develop economic strength and political power in their own community....”

            Lastly, the collection is intended to fund educational programs that will raise the level of awareness among middle and upper classes for the plight of the poor.  The founding resolution committed the Campaign to “lead the People of God to a new knowledge of today's problems, a deeper understanding of the intricate forces that lead to group conflict, and a perception of some new and promising approaches that we might take in promoting a greater spirit of solidarity…”

            To bring about social change, at least one third of CHD grants have been used to fund Alinsky-style, broad-based community organizations.   Most of these are based on institutional membership.  The largest of the Alinskyian organizations are the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), with a network of over 60 local affiliates, the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing (PICO), with about 35 affiliates, Gamaliel with over 40 local affiliates, and Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART), with a dozen local affiliates.  ACORN, another Alinsky-style network based on individual membership rather than institutional membership, also receives a percentage of CCHD funding.   Besides training their membership to take civic action, these groups seek an ultimate restructuring of government, education, job training and placement, healthcare, housing, and social service provision.  They are also theologically liberationist, promoting concepts of “class struggle,” consensualized “truth,” and a politicized spiritual life, assessing imperfect, troubled economic or socio-political structures to be root causes of evil rather than a consequence of human actions, done by free and responsible persons.

            The educational programs of the CCHD are also liberationist.  An older CHD publication, “Sourcebook on Poverty, Development and Justice,” produced by the CHD during the tenure of Sr. Josephine Dunne, SHCJ (CHD Education Coordinator) is a collection of essays explaining the foundational liberation theology of the CHD and its preference for “liberating education.” “Liberating education,” for Dunne, was a process quite distinct from traditional western education, which she typed as “being institutional, self-serving and divorced from developmental needs, forcing the learned to look elsewhere for meaning and causing institutional education to be in many cases the experience of irrelevance.  Catholic education in the U.S. seems to have shared in this deficiency.”  In its stead, Dunne offered a “new theory of catechesis” that included values clarification and a threefold pedagogy, which she termed transference, reflection, and action-living (see-judge-act), lived out by the learner in a “continual dialectical interrelationship.”

            Recent CCHD-produced educational materials continue to use see-judge-act pedagogy. While see-judge-act methodology is not necessarily manipulative, it is often designed to lead participants to pre-determined conclusions.  Session 1 of “Poverty and Faithjustice,” for example, presumes that any adequate response to poverty will require fundamental changes in the social and economic structures of the United States.  JustFaith, the most recent educational program used by the CCHD, continues in the same vein as its predecessors.

            The Campaign has also been found to fund organizations with anti-life agendas.  While CCHD grants have not gone to organizations that directly provide abortion or contraceptives, CCHD money has gone to grantees that politically support these social evils.  In an effort to repackage itself and regain donor confidence, the Campaign added the word “Catholic” to its name in 1998 and produced a new set of guidelines emphasizing the sanctity of life and disqualifying organizations from CCHD-funding whose primary or substantial thrust was contrary to Catholic teaching.  It has made only minor funding corrections in response to these guidelines.

 

 

Catholic Relief Services

 

Following Catholic Relief Services' public response to a 250-page report by American Life League, ALL president Judie Brown published an open letter to CRS. In the letter, Brown firmly rebukes the millions of dollars in grants CRS gives to organizations that commit abortions, distribute contraception, and perform sterilizations. CRS claims that the grants were for projects that "save lives," however Brown contends that grants to organizations that fight directly against the gospel of life cannot be justified "simply because those organizations do some good."

"Funding these groups is a little like paying wolves to tend the sheep," said Brown. "I simply do not understand why CRS is so determined to fund organizations that have made perfectly clear their commitment to kill babies and ruin souls."

ALL's 250-page report on CRS grantees shows that 86 percent of CRS' domestic grants for fiscal year 2012 went to 23 organizations that distribute and promote the use of all forms of birth control, including abortion.

            "All we are asking is for CRS to stop funding organizations that view the elimination of children as the solution to the problem of poverty," said Brown. "It's a very simple request, and we really don't think it is too much to ask of an organization that calls itself Catholic."

In addition to publishing the open letter on ALL's website, the open letter was sent to every bishop who is head of a diocese in the United States.The open letter is available on American Life League's website: http://www.all.org/pdf/OpenLetterToCRS.pdf

ALL's 250 page report on CRS grantees can be found here: http://www.all.org/~dcurrier/docs/CRS_Grants_for_FY_2012.pdf


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