A Tale of Two Samaritans

Two health plans – both called Samaritan – offer interesting alternatives to traditional health plans.

samaritan-health-planOne is Samaritan Health Plans (SHP), a private healthcare initiative, that could serve as a model to assure community-based coverage for all.  Licensed by the state of Oregon, SHP is a fiscally and socially responsible healthcare service contractor that creates value through comprehensive managed care for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and the public.  A division of Samaritan Health Services, SHP serves more than 25,000 residents of Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties in the Mid-Willamette Valley and along the Central Oregon coast.  Contrary to most managed-care programs – which are accountable to shareholders – Corvallis-based SHP reports only to a board of directors whose members come from the communities it serves.

The second is Samaritan Ministries, a Peoria, IL-based faith-based alternative to health insurance where Evangelical Christians join together to pick up the cost of each other’s significant medical bills. Participants pay a regular monthly premium, with the money going to pay for other members’ healthcare.  To be eligible for membership, people must be church-going evangelicals who promise not to smoke, drink heavily or have sex outside of marriage.Samaritan Ministries

Because the plan is not technically insurance, it lacks government oversight.  According to Michael Mcraith, director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, “These are companies run on a cash flow basis so that claims are paid on available cash, not based on any contractual obligation.  When you are paying for these programs, there are no guarantees that a claim will be paid.  There is no certainty or protection for the consumer.  Faith alone will not solve the problem.”

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