Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Where Affordable, Altruistic Healthcare Goes to Die

 

As conservatives, we’re never surprised by news that Obamacare hasn’t fixed the nightmares facing the typical American confronted with medical bills. Nor are we surprised when Obamacare only makes them worse. A few years ago, Jim Epstein at Reason predicted the demise of health-sharing ministries at the hands of Obamacare’s subsidized exchanges. The good news is that Epstein was wrong: Membership in health-sharing ministries has only grown as frustration with commercial prepaid plans under the Affordable Care Act continues to mount. According to the New York Times,

[M]embership in sharing ministries has more than doubled over the last six years, to 535,000 from about 200,000, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries.

Epstein attributes this doubling to “Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and the extent to which new mandates would drive up premiums and leave customers seeking out cheaper options.”

The bad news, then?

Obamacare punishes the creation of new health-sharing ministries to meet this growing demand:

Will exploding demand for Samaritan’s services lead other like-minded individuals to form their own health-care mutual aid societies?

Unfortunately, no, because Obamacare won’t allow it. The Affordable Care Act includes language that exempts members of health-care sharing ministries from the individual mandate, but it’s written to insure that that exemption only applies if the organizations they belong to existed prior to the law’s passage.

More specifically, only membership in health-sharing ministries in continuous existence since December 1999 (!) exempts citizens from the individual mandate. Obamacare took a nascent alternative to Americans’ medical-billing nightmares and cartelized it. Thanks, Obamacare.

As Epstein notes, health-sharing ministries are one of the last remnants of America’s once-flourishing network of mutual aid societies,

in which a community of individuals with shared beliefs band together to form a voluntary social-safety net. A century ago, an estimated one-third of American men belonged to mutual aid societies, but most faded away with the expansion of the welfare state.

These mutual aid societies accomplished something now apparently thought impossible by many right-thinking people: the harmonious fusion of social and financial capital. Megan McArdle’s presentation on the tendency of social capital (also called “reciprocal altruism”) to dissipate financial capital among today’s American poor, keeping them poor, is justly famous. But it overlooks that life doesn’t have to be like this, and indeed wasn’t always like this.

Mutual aid societies once functioned as both extended families and actuarial instruments for their members, creating an orderly fusion of social and financial capital where the two supported each other, rather than cancelling each other out. Because organized mutual aid spread social obligations over a membership larger than the biological family, and formalized the obligations into predictable rules, individual members of mutual aid societies no longer found their own capital wiped out from helping one another, allowing poor people to accumulate capital in the long term.

In the shorter term, mutual aid societies provided, even to the very poor (albeit on a modest scale), financial benefits we associate with comfortable middle-class living, such as sick, retirement, death, and unemployment benefits. Perhaps equally important were the non-financial benefits: membership in such societies was how many poor people imposed middle-class morality on themselves. Members encouraged one another in thrift and clean living — in particular, abusing the hospitality of one’s fellow members by requesting benefits for the self-inflicted wounds of immoral behavior was typically disallowed.

Modern health sharing ministries are indeed a last echo of this mutual-aid tradition, as Epstein’s video explains:

Obamacare’s contribution to the demise of American mutual-aid societies is, as Epstein, mentioned, nothing new. As David Beito documents in “From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State,” federal programs have been horning in on mutual-aid societies’ turf since the New Deal. While many mutual-aid societies did struggle financially during the Great Depression, Beito notes that most managed somehow to remain viable.

That is, until Social Security. James J. Davis, general director of the Loyal Order of Moose, “asserted with pride” in 1935 (the same year the Social Security Act passed), “that ‘practically every provision embodied in the Social Security Act has been carried successfully by the fraternal societies of America for years, and all of it without cost to the taxpayer.’” Not surprisingly, then, the advent of Social Security in 1935 quickly began to crowd out mutual aid, leaving the fraternal organizations’ purpose much diminished – think Stonecutters rather than mutual help for even the most poor and marginalized among us.

What Social Security didn’t kill, later government assistance finished off. The Taborian Hospital was established in 1942 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, by The Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an all-black mutual-aid society, for the benefit of poor black sharecroppers at a time when nearby hospitals often refused black patients altogether. It experienced its first taste of government “help” in 1946, when the Hill-Burton Hospital Construction Act offered states federal grants to build and operate hospitals. As Beito explains, this act “cut deeply into the patient base of black fraternal hospitals.” Increasingly intrusive regulations took their toll, too. The advent of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, with their “lure of reimbursement dollars,” further undermined the ability of black mutual-aid hospitals to support themselves.

The final blow came in 1966, when the federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) authorized a grant to establish a “Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou” in direct, subsidized competition with the Taborian Hospital. By 1967, the Taborian Hospital was gone, its building now property of the federal government as the first inpatient facility “built” by the OEO.

The substitution of a mutual-aid hospital with a federal facility might not sound like a great loss, but it was. The Taborian Hospital, while never able to afford the latest in medical care, offered excellent affordable care to a population that often struggled to afford any care at all. Moreover, the care was personalized, and those staffing Taborian also innovated in providing local black talent an affordable entrée into the medical profession and middle-class respectability.

The Taborian Hospital worked, until government competition decided it wouldn’t.

Like mutual aid, charitable care in medicine became a casualty of federal assistance long before Obamacare. As doctors Glueck and Cihak documented before the passage of the ACA, federal acts from Medicare and Medicaid in the ’60s to HIPAA in the ’90s have made it harder and harder for doctors to provide charitable care to their patients. In particular, Medicaid and Medicare turn giving occasional discounts to needy patients while also accepting Medicare or Medicaid patients into “fraud.” For example:

In the late 1960s, Dr. James Baker of Aberdeen WA charged $8.00 for a standard office consultation. But when a patient on blood pressure medicine came in to have blood pressure checked, Dr. Baker couldn’t justify charging the full $8.00 so he charged a more charitable $4.00 instead.

Because the government had to get the best price, the Medicare bureaucrats informed the doctor that as far as the Medicare program was concerned his fee for his standard office consultation was actually $4.00, not $8. So, the government would pay him or reimburse patients the usual 80 percent, or $3.20.

Oh, yes, and he better try really hard to collect that other 80 cents or the government would conclude that his usual fee was actually only $3.20, and the government would pay 80 percent of that, or $2.56; the formula spirals downward from there.

… If some doctor or hospital was rash enough to treat charity patients for free, the government would conclude that was the usual fee and pay nothing for services rendered to government patients.

Indeed, this seems to be the approach to several charity hospitals that had the gall to continue their charitable mission. They get into trouble when they only give charity to human beings and not to Medicare apparatchiks.

For example, Deborah Hospital, now Deborah Heart and Lung Center, a hospital whose mission from the beginning has been to provide charitable care free of charge to patients, endured a four-year fraud prosecution for accepting Medicare payments while also treating patients ineligible for government assistance free of charge. The worst part of it is that, from the perspective of the aggrieved taxpayer, these prosecutions actually make sense: why should the taxpayer be on the hook for a bill any greater than what those who don’t receive taxpayer assistance are expected to pay?

As medical lawyer Madeline P. Cosman, Ph.D., writes, “… Deborah Hospital was accused of granting incentives for referrals, submitting false claims to the government, unfairly competing with community and other specialty hospitals, and generally flouting White Coat Crime laws … Medicare has no obligation to pay for hospital care that the patient gets as a free gift.”

The “false claims” charge alone carries a $10,000 fine, per incident, plus triple damages. Each patient charge can be prosecuted as a separate false claim. “Deborah’s refusal to violate its free care mandate that defies medical law nearly forced the generous doors and charity operating rooms to close shut. In 2003, Deborah Hospital finally got a reprieve, a waiver enabling them to continue their tradition of not charging copayments.”

Deborah only continues to fulfill its charitable mission because of special pleading. Other would-be altruists, Glueck and Cihak note, have not been so lucky:

[I]n order to keep government prosecutors at bay, doctors and hospitals who have contracts with Medicare or private insurance companies are essentially forced to charge their highest fees so that the government can’t accuse them of cheating.

Obamacare by itself is not where affordable, altruistic healthcare goes to die. Its stifling of health sharing ministries is just one of many instances of federal medical “assistance” penalizing citizens for taking care of each other, instead of passively waiting for someone to take care of them.


This post was originally published on March 25, 2016.

There are 32 comments.

  1. BrentB67 Inactive

    How is this not leading the Main Feed. I love any story about individuals and communities that blow up the federal welfare model of society. Well done.

    • #1
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This is excellent. My in laws used sucha ministry for years when they were skint and it helped in so many ways.

    • #2
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:20 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Judge Mental Member

    I’m with Brent. Main Feed.

    I particularly like the depth of info. You’ll learn more from an article like this than most articles on mainstream publications.

    • #3
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The state must be mother, father and God to us all. You will comply.

    • #4
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. BrentB67 Inactive

    I’m 2 for 2 today. I should probably call it a day and go buy a lottery ticket.

    • #5
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. La Tapada Member

    We are members of a healthcare cost sharing organization and it’s working great for us.

    • #6
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Kay of MT Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: More specifically, only membership in health-sharing ministries in continuous existence since December 1999 (!) exempts citizens from the individual mandate.

    Who and where are these health-sharing ministries that have been in existence since Dec 1999?

    • #7
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:06 PM PDT
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  8. Stephen Bishop Inactive

    The problem is that lefties play with healthcare and when they have messed up they believe that more regulation is the answer.

    • #8
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:25 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. TG Thatcher
    TG

    Excellent piece, Midge!

    • #9
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MFR,

    We are the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    borg

    • #11
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Kay of MT:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: More specifically, only membership in health-sharing ministries in continuous existence since December 1999 (!) exempts citizens from the individual mandate.

    Who and where are these health-sharing ministries that have been in existence since Dec 1999?

    The three largest are Samaritan Ministries International, based in Illinois, Medi-Share, based in Florida, and Christian Healthcare Ministries, based in Ohio.

    The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries may have more information on others. I’m not sure whether the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries incorporates all US health sharing ministries irrespective of religious affiliation, or if the ministries it incorporates are only the Christian ones.

    It’s not unusual for health sharing ministries to require some pledge of religious affiliation from their members, so the Big Three mentioned above may be closed to non-Christians.

    But according to this source, there is a fourth major health sharing ministry extant since 1999 – Liberty HealthShare – run by Mennonites but open to Jews and all those who “’embrace its members’ ‘shared beliefs’ in God as the source of all rights and liberties, freedom to worship ‘the God of the Bible’ in his or her own way, the obligation to assist others, the duty to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the right to direct one’s own health care free of government dictates.'”

    • #12
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Amy Schley:borg

    ::Spits out drink from laughing::

    • #13
    • March 25, 2016, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Brian McMenomy Inactive

    Fantastic piece of research. Great examples of how federal “help” infantilizes us all. Main Feed, editors. Please.

    Edit: Guess I waited long enough to type the comment :). Thanks!

    • #14
    • March 25, 2016, at 1:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Brian McMenomy Inactive

    Amy Schley:borg

    That’s fantastic, especially since I have a daughter in college in Canada! I’m with Tom; almost snorted my Mussaman curry on my monitor.

    • #15
    • March 25, 2016, at 1:21 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Judge Mental Member

    Brian McMenomy:

    Amy Schley:borg

    That’s fantastic, especially since I have a daughter in college in Canada! I’m with Tom; almost snorted my Mussaman curry on my monitor.

    Snorting curry? That has to smart.

    • #16
    • March 25, 2016, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. Kay of MT Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: But according to this source, there is a fourth major health sharing ministry extant since 1999 – Liberty HealthShare – run by Mennonites but open to Jews and all those who “’embrace its members’ ‘shared beliefs’ in God as the source of all rights and liberties, freedom to worship ‘the God of the Bible’ in his or her own way, the obligation to assist others, the duty to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the right to direct one’s own health care free of government dictates.’”

    Thank you, I’m looking into it.

    • #17
    • March 25, 2016, at 1:52 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Painter Jean Member

    Kay, I’ve been a member of Medi-Share since losing my individual plan to Obamacare. I’ve been happy with it, though to be honest I haven’t needed it, being fairly healthy.

    Midge, great article.

    • #18
    • March 25, 2016, at 3:43 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Kay of MT Member

    Painter Jean:Kay, I’ve been a member of Medi-Share since losing my individual plan to Obamacare. I’ve been happy with it, though to be honest I haven’t needed it, being fairly healthy.

    Midge, great article.

    I have no choice with Medicare as they just deduct it from my SS Retirement. However, I went the first year of ACA without a supplement or part D. Then BC/BS talked me into a Medicare Advantage plan but have to pay a penalty for the rest of my life for going a year without ACA. I get phone calls from BC/BS, “you didn’t use your plan last year” and I tell them I am healthy and didn’t need it, but by gosh they are going to make me pay for it come hell or high water. Their replay was, “it helps pay for others,” my response was to buy their own damn birth control. I am starting my 2nd year with the Advantage plan, but oh would I love to tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    • #19
    • March 25, 2016, at 6:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Super post, which highlights one of the many things wrong with the AHA, although it’s clear that the rot set in many decades previous to its passage, with the executive assumption, the legislative capitulation, and the judicial confirmation, of, and to, the idea that Big Brother Knows Best.

    Surely, the end of this election cycle will see a return to smaller federal government, and a ceding of more control to the states and localities, and perhaps even to the people–those people for whom this government of, for, and by, exists.

    After all, that’s what everyone wants. Right?

    • #20
    • March 25, 2016, at 9:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. The Reticulator Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:Obamacare’s contribution to the demise of American mutual-aid societies is, as Epstein, mentioned, nothing new. As David Beito documents in “From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State,” federal programs have been horning in on mutual-aid societies’ turf since the New Deal. While many mutual-aid societies did struggle financially during the Great Depression, Beito notes that most managed somehow to remain viable.

    That is, until Social Security. James J. Davis, general director of the Loyal Order of Moose, “asserted with pride” in 1935 (the same year the Social Security Act passed), “that ‘practically every provision embodied in the Social Security Act has been carried successfully by the fraternal societies of America for years, and all of it without cost to the taxpayer.’” Not surprisingly, then, the advent of Social Security in 1935 quickly began to crowd out mutual aid, leaving the fraternal organizations’ purpose much diminished – think Stonecutters rather than mutual help for even the most poor and marginalized among us.

    Thanks for that book reference. I’ve been wanting to learn more about this for some time now.

    And remember: “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” That came from the 1930s, too.

    • #21
    • March 25, 2016, at 9:13 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. The Reticulator Member

    She:Super post, which highlights one of the many things wrong with the AHA, although it’s clear that the rot set in many decades previous to its passage, with the executive assumption, the legislative capitulation, and the judicial confirmation, of, and to, the idea that Big Brother Knows Best.

    Surely, the end of this election cycle will see a return to smaller federal government, and a ceding of more control to the states and localities, and perhaps even to the people–those people for whom this government of, for, and by, exists.

    After all, that’s what everyone wants. Right?

    Just as soon as the Republicans finish their next step in nationalizing all of the state and local police forces, they’ll get right on it.

    • #22
    • March 25, 2016, at 9:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Brandon Phelps Inactive

    Yep. Been part of Samaritan since losing my individual plans to Obamacare. Best thing ever. I hope that this requirement for 1999 or older entities gets removed.

    • #23
    • March 25, 2016, at 11:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Excellent post.

    • #24
    • December 25, 2016, at 5:33 PM PST
    • Like
  25. captainpower Inactive

    Wow! That was fantastic. Elsewhere I’ve read way more words than that and learned a lot less.

    This is primo content. Concise, informative, opinionated without pretense of impartiality, hyperlinked with sources for more information and independent verification.

    This deserves to be “best of” and I am now in search for the rest of “best of” in hopes that they are of similar quality.

    [edit]

    It appears the “best of” URL for 2016 is:

    https://ricochet.com/398751/best-posts-2016/

    And it appears that at least one other “best of” post with the nice ribbon icon has the ribbon itself linked to the “best of” URL.

    https://ricochet.com/372436/witness-part-2/

    Perhaps a plain hyperlink could be posted somewhere for those who aren’t inclined to randomly click images of ribbons looking for “best of” pages?

    • #25
    • December 29, 2016, at 6:55 PM PST
    • Like
  26. TheRightNurse Member

    This is phenomenal. There is so much I agree with that I don’t even know where to start!

    • #26
    • December 29, 2016, at 10:23 PM PST
    • Like
  27. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    She (View Comment):
    Super post, which highlights one of the many things wrong with the AHA, although it’s clear that the rot set in many decades previous to its passage, with the executive assumption, the legislative capitulation, and the judicial confirmation, of, and to, the idea that Big Brother Knows Best.

    Surely, the end of this election cycle will see a return to smaller federal government, and a ceding of more control to the states and localities, and perhaps even to the people–those people for whom this government of, for, and by, exists.

    After all, that’s what everyone wants. Right?

    No, unfortunately that’s not what everyone wants. Too many just want someone else to pay their bills, medical and otherwise. They never seem to realize that the politician who promises free stuff is a charlatan trapping them in a fantasy that only makes everything more expensive and less open to innovation that could lower costs and improve quality. Some do benefit from the ‘free’ programs, perhaps more than it costs them, perhaps not but even they pay hidden costs. Freedom isn’t free but Tyranny is even more expensive.

    • #27
    • December 30, 2016, at 4:20 AM PST
    • Like
  28. Z in MT Inactive

    The destruction of mutual aid societies was a part and parcel with the progressive turn-of-the-century mindset of economies of scale. The progressives figured: If these mutual aid societies provide great benefit by pooling resources and risk – think of how much efficiency could be had if everybody was in the same pool…

    What the progressives didn’t see is that the social functions of mutual aid societies was as important of benefit to their members as the safety net. Nobody hangs out at the local Social Security office.

    • #28
    • December 30, 2016, at 9:35 AM PST
    • Like
  29. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:Obamacare’s contribution to the demise of American mutual-aid societies is, as Epstein, mentioned, nothing new. As David Beito documents in “From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State,” federal programs have been horning in on mutual-aid societies’ turf since the New Deal. While many mutual-aid societies did struggle financially during the Great Depression, Beito notes that most managed somehow to remain viable.

    Thanks for that book reference. I’ve been wanting to learn more about this for some time now.

    By the way, I’ve purchased and read the book since this was first posted. Well, the last few pages have languished, unread, but I’ve read the good parts. I may refer to it on Ricochet someday. Thanks again for letting me know about it.

    • #29
    • December 30, 2016, at 10:00 AM PST
    • Like
  30. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m sorry I missed this post the first time around, thanks for the year-end vote. I’m going to see where this type of “innovation” (in quotes because all things old generally become new again) can be implemented on the state level. Kevin Williamson wrote about mutual aid societies in this book. With health care coverage collapsing all around us, we need to put every option on the table.

    • #30
    • December 31, 2016, at 6:03 AM PST
    • Like