Everyone who’s escaped the evangelical bubble can tell you how Christian culture is often just a crappier version of what the rest of us enjoy. The movies are never as good. The music leaves a lot to be desired. The comedians are never that funny. The point is: They try to imitate the secular world… but fail.
It’s one thing when it’s pop culture. It’s a real problem, though, when we’re talking about insurance.
BuzzFeed’s Laura Turner has a heartbreaking story of how Samaritan Ministries couldn’t help a Christian couple that adopted two children from Africa when one of the kids needed some basic tests done upon arrival to the U.S.
The way the ministry works is that everyone has a specific amount they pay into the insurance pool, but they don’t send it to Samaritan. The company tells them where to send their money (e.g. Bob from Nebraska) and how much to send. If you need something covered yourself, you ask Samaritan to send your name to others in the pool.
When Bet Olson and her husband Erik made that request on behalf of their children, Samaritan refused to release their names to the other Christians in the pool.
The tests cost around $6,000, a sizeable portion of their annual income, and Erik and Bet set about submitting their need to Samaritan. “God blessed our family by giving us a beautiful boy from Ethiopia!” they wrote on their need processing form to Samaritan. “We had to have some medical testing done. All recommended international adoption medical testing came back normal and healthy. Praise God!”
Samaritan declined to share their need.
“We went to Samaritan Ministries with the need and they said, ‘This is pre-existing,’” Bet said. “We said, ‘What? What do you mean by pre-existing?’” What Samaritan meant is still unclear, because the ministry became fairly unresponsive to the couple in early 2011, when all of this was happening. The only communication the leadership provided was to explain that they would not share this cost, but that Bet and Erik could list it as a “special prayer need” in the monthly newsletter, where members could pray for them and send money if they chose to do so (six or seven people did, Bet said, all less than $50 apiece)…
They were eventually able to cut their costs in half by applying for Medicaid. The secular world came to the rescue when Christians couldn’t take care of themselves. (Surprise.)
Ministries like Samaritan are legal under the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate, but they obviously don’t provide the same kind of coverage a good secular health care plan would. Your same-sex partner won’t be covered. There’s likely a lifetime reimbursement cap. And no one’s paying for your birth control.
In other words, some of the very inequities which the ACA tried to fix are still perpetuated by these Christian alternatives.
Maybe the most telling part of Turner’s article is this:
Deborah Hamilton, who heads Hamilton Strategies, the public relations firm that represents Samaritan Ministries, declined to arrange an interview after asking me via email whether this would be a “positive” article, and then told me that she did not think BuzzFeed News would be a “strategic media outlet” for Samaritan.
So… Hamilton didn’t want to defend her company in a media outlet where the word “Jesus” doesn’t throw everyone off the scent. BuzzFeed was going to ask critical questions and she didn’t want to answer them.
(Image via Shutterstock)