Friday, December 19, 2008

Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries

As an alternative to the current system of employer-based insurance, the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries provides voluntary mutual aid to members to help cover their medical expenses.

Their system works as follows:
A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) provides a health care cost sharing arrangement among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs. HCSMs are not-for-profit religious organization acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses. These organizations are known as health care sharing ministries (HCSM).
* HCSMs receive no funding or grants from government sources.
* HCSMs are not insurance companies. HCSM do not assume any risk or guarantee the payment of any medical bill. Ten states have explicitly recognized this and specifically exempt HCSMs from their insurance codes.
* HCSMs serve more than 100,000 members, with members in all fifty states.
* HCSMs' members share more than $60 million per year for one another’s health care costs.
* HCSMs strive to be accessible to members regardless of their income, because traditionally shares are a fraction of the cost of insurance rates.
This is exactly the sort of private, voluntary charity that Dr. Leonard Peikoff speaks of in his essay, "Health Care Is Not A Right":
Some people can't afford medical care in the U.S. But they are necessarily a small minority in a free or even semi-free country. If they were the majority, the country would be an utter bankrupt and could not even think of a national medical program. As to this small minority, in a free country they have to rely solely on private, voluntary charity. Yes, charity, the kindness of the doctors or of the better off -- charity, not right, i.e. not their right to the lives or work of others. And such charity, I may say, was always forthcoming in the past in America. The advocates of Medicaid and Medicare under LBJ did not claim that the poor or old in the '60's got bad care; they claimed that it was an affront for anyone to have to depend on charity.
I fully support the right of organizations such as AHCSM to engage in such charitable mutual aid, free from the onerous restrictions that the government places on insurance companies. And although the AHCSM bases its policies on Christian Biblical principles, in a free society any group of people (religious or non-religious) could band together to create a similar system of voluntary mutual aid.

I therefore commend the AHCSM for showing that it is possible to create a real-life positive alternative to traditional insurance that many Americans would gladly support and benefit from.

The AHCSM has also correctly taken a strong position against government-mandated health insurance. In one of their policy briefings (not on their website, but sent to me as a PDF), they wrote:
CONCERNS: Mandating health insurance will infringe on the religious and economic liberties of members of health care sharing ministries and ultimately destroy these unique ministries.
Mandatory Insurance Will Cripple An Innovative Approach to Meeting Health Care Expenses. HCSMs are the result of a cooperative effort of individuals and employers organized around a religious principle of "bearing one another's burdens" in a time of need. Requiring these sustaining communities to use their scarce resources to purchase health insurance or pay taxes and penalties for failing to do so will drain the financial lifeblood from these vibrant ministries.

Mandatory Insurance Infringes on Religious Liberty. Members of HSCMs are presently in charge of the decisions regarding their own health care and able to refrain from supporting practices contrary to their moral convictions. Mandatory insurance, on the other hand, would legally require the purchase of insurance policies that force citizens to give financial support to treatments that violate their convictions.

This Innovative Solution to Rising Health Care Costs Works. HCSM members help with medical burdens by sending a monthly share that is significantly lower than individual or employer insurance rates. HCSMs also provide the spiritual and emotional support of a community of believers that helps to heal the whole person rather than just the illness.
THE SOLUTION: Do not mandate the purchase of health insurance. Instead, give increased liberty to all consumers and allow them to control their health care dollars. In HCSMs this approach has resulted in greater individual control of health care spending and improved quality of care...
All Americans should support and defend the right of the HCSMs to engage in this sort of charity. One of the evils of mandatory insurance is that it would violate the rights of individuals to create and engage in these sorts of innovative mutual aid activities. This is yet another reason to oppose mandatory health insurance.