A health-care plan from 2,000 years ago could help America today

There’s a group of Christians who have peace of mind even while America’s health-care system seems to spiral out of control. As an expression of our faith, we’ve opted out of health insurance entirely and decided to directly share one another’s medical costs.

We are inspired by a 2,000-year-old Christian tradition first practiced by the early church. The first Christians “had everything in common” and “shared everything they had,” says the Book of Acts. They met each other's needs.

Our ministry, Medi-Share, was founded upon this principle in 1993, and today we help more than 300,000 people share each other's medical costs. In that 24-year window of time, our members have shared over $1.4 billion of health-care expenses within our community and saved an additional $690 million through discounts we've directly negotiated with providers on our members’ behalf.

We've managed to do all this with our average member contributing about $350 a month.

As a not-for-profit religious community, we do our work exclusively as a service to society. And contrary to the largely impersonal experience that is the American health-care system, we strive to make our members feel like they're part of an extended family.

Our members don’t just share medical expenses like strangers vaguely connected by their checks going into the same giant pool of money. Each month, they know precisely whose expenses they are contributing to, and they have the opportunity to connect with each other via prayer requests. This allows them to encourage and get to know one another.

Our members celebrate together when a new child is born or cancer is beaten. They grieve together when a loved one is lost or when tragedy befalls. No one has to navigate life’s ups and downs alone.

Health-care sharing isn’t right for everyone. Some people should use insurance. But sharing has been the right choice for our members. It's connected families from coast to coast and transformed the health-care experience of hundreds of thousands of members.

A member of four years recently started struggling with heart problems and just a few months ago had surgery with severe complications. He ended up spending 26 days in the hospital and accumulating more than $170,000 in bills. After we negotiated down his fees, our community stepped up and took care of the balance.

He wrote us recently: “I can’t thank you enough for doing exactly what you said you would do when I joined.”

These are the kind of health-care solutions America needs – initiatives that will connect us to one another and help us help each other. That's what health care should be about.

There’s just one thing I hope for in whatever comes of the debate happening between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and it is that they understand and empathize with the health-care needs of the American people.

In this time of constant and confusing change in our nation’s health insurance markets, Medi-Share offers protection and peace of mind for millions of Americans whose plans are in peril, or who just want the security and satisfaction that comes from being part of a community committed to the biblical model of meeting each other needs. After all, there’s nothing more important than our faith and our health.

Ted Squires is the chief executive officer of Christian Care Ministry, a not-for-profit organization based in Melbourne, Florida that operates Medi-Share, one of the leading healthcare sharing ministries in the United States. Visit www.medishare.com.