Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fleeing Obamacare: How Doctors Are Insuring Their Own Families - By Robin Dolgin

It isn’t a secret that physicians in private practice despise insurance companies and view them as (well) the enemy.
Now, more than ever, doctors who (even) voted for Obama -- not once but twice -- admit to scrambling to escape federally-mandated insurance for themselves and families. Most patients haven’t caught on that a growing number of practitioners are defecting and reveling in saner cost guidelines offered by healthshareministries. They started out as small religious groups who would share medical expenses: They could never have anticipated the hundreds of thousands who would come banging on their doors in hopes of opting out of the (un)Affordable Care Act. (There are approximately four major faith-based groups in the country.)
This doesn’t sit well with the biggest ACA cheerleader of them all, Barack Obama, who worries that the trend could challenge the stability of the insurance markets.
That hasn’t stopped the idea from catching on like wildfire, even among Jewish doctors. “I couldn’t believe the hypocrisy of the government to say ‘catastrophic insurance’ doesn’t measure up as quality insurance,” says Steve Davidson, a cranial osteopath in private practice in Phoenix. “But isn’t that what the ACA is now offering: Families are stuck paying an average of $25,000 annually (for four), and absorbing out-of-pocket medical costs because of exorbitant deductibles?” He sums up the inverted federally-mandated logic with: “Wouldn’t you call that catastrophic coverage -- only you’re forced to purchase services you don’t need or want.” Dr. Davidson joined the stampede among his colleagues to sign up with a faith-based medical cooperative.
Apparently, Forbes magazine’s projection of a $25,000 annual health care insurance bill for a family of four may be a thing of the past. “I thought my insurance company made a mistake,” averaging nearly $1,000 per family member, says Junella Chin, an osteopathic physician in New York with a family of four. No mistake about it. Dr. Chin fired her insurance carrier, rather than paying the astronomical $46,800 annual premium. She had heard from more than one colleague about a cooperative, Liberty HealthShare, based in Ohio, which was earning a reputation for integrity in paying out claims. Many physicians struggling with spiraling costs for themselves and patients still worry about the uncertainty of pooling medical expenses. Some take a more pragmatic view.
“How could any group be worse than BlueCross BlueShield?” said one physician who wanted to remain anonymous. “The company is becoming more creative at denying claims with each passing quarter.” He, too, opted out of federally-mandated insurance for a ministry healthshare. “I felt like I was aiding and abetting the enemy,” said the doctor of his monthly payments to the behemoth-size carrier.
Surprisingly, the ministries are starting to garner positive coverage in the financial newspaper of record, the Wall Street Journal. Kristine Willington, 37, of Beverly, Mass., was reportedly horrified to learn that her family’s insurance was almost doubling to $2,100 a month with a $5,000 deductible, according to the WSJ. Willington nearly sounded like an advertisement for the healthshare cooperative she decided to join, pointing out that her revised payment was nearly 75 percent less, paying $475 a month, with a $1,500 annual deductible. Her son’s $30,000 hospital bill was taken care of by members, answering her worries about consumer risks in a faith-based group, according to the article.
Group members even pray for you, at no extra charge.
Ironically, leaders of the ministries thought signups would be slow because of subsidized payments being offered on the ACA insurance exchanges. “Our purpose is ministry, not profit,” said the Rev. Howard Russell, chief executive of Christian Healthcare Ministries, whose philosophy serves as the abiding principle for the religious group. Their message is being heard loud and clear by taxpayers, not necessarily all Christians, desperately trying to opt-out of ObamaCare. Ministries are accepting non-Christians, but they are not PC about who they choose. They are known to routinely turn away marijuana users, and applicants suffering from obesity and/or addictions, along with many pre-existing conditions. They will insure members when they become sick. 
A self-employed painter -- who launched Samaritan Ministries International -- from his remodeled chicken coop in his backyard, recalls members began joining in 1994.
The group has moved into a three-story headquarters and recently threw a luncheon celebrating 50,000 members, according to the WSJ. “None of us imagined it would be this big,” said James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan. 
Perhaps he should consider thanking Obama, because his numbers are only expected to grow from here.