Medi-Share

Check this out: New York Times aces tough story mixing faith, health, money and politics

Check this out: New York Times aces tough story mixing faith, health, money and politics

Every now and then, I hit a story in a major mainstream news-media source that focuses on a topic that I happen to know something about through first-hand experience.

How often does this happen to you and, well, how do you feel when you are reading these reports?

I hear from people all the time who say that, every time they read stories that hit close to home, they lose some of their faith in the press. Let me say that this has rarely been my experience. Then again, I spend most of my time on the other side of the notepad.

However, there was a New York Times piece that ran the other day that covered a trend that has directly impacted many friends of mine in the past year or so -- rising healthcare costs. My own family got caught up in this trend during the first few months after we moved back to East Tennessee.

The key: Many people who work for themselves or who are employed by small schools, churches or non-profit ministries find it almost impossible to afford traditional healthcare insurance. Many have, in recent months, faced cost jumps of somewhere between $500 to $1,000 a month. Panic can set in.

Thus, many are joining religious healthcare coops that -- legally -- are allowed to take the place of traditional insurance. This is not a new trend (see the older CNN piece at the top of this post). However, the number of people choosing this option is headed up, up, up.

That brings us to the Times piece that ran with this headline: "Christians Flock to Groups That Help Members Pay Medical Bills."

The bottom line: This piece is shockingly snark-free.

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Seattle Times scores a winner in piece on Christian health-share ministries

Seattle Times scores a winner in piece on Christian health-share ministries

There aren’t many religion writers in the Pacific Northwest these days and that's a shame.

For example, The Seattle Times apparently hasn’t had one since Janet Tu left the beat several years ago. If something breaks like last year’s ouster of Mark Driscoll -- then-pastor of Mars Hill, Seattle’s largest church at the time -- the newsroom has to pull reporters from other beats to cover it.

So it was a surprise to see this story leading their web site Sunday on Medi-Share and two other Christian “health-sharing ministries” that act quasi-health insurers for lots of Washington state residents.

When Melissa Mira suffered sudden heart failure at the end of her second pregnancy last year, she worried first about her health and her baby -- then about the more than $200,000 in medical bills that began rolling in.
“Your world is just crashing down around you and you wonder: ‘How is this going to be covered?’ ” recalled Mira, 30, who spent more than a month away from her Tacoma home, hospitalized at the University of Washington Medical Center.
For Mira and her family, the answer came not through traditional health insurance, but through faith that fellow Christians would step forward to pay the bills.
The Miras -- including daughter Jael, 4, and baby Sienna Rain, now a healthy 9-month-old -- are among the growing numbers of people looking to “health care-sharing ministries” across the U.S. At last count, there were more than 10,000 members in Washington state and nearly 400,000 nationwide, individuals and families whose medical costs are taken care of entirely through the organized goodwill -- and monthly payments or “shares” -- of like-minded religious followers.

The writer is the newspaper’s health reporter and the tone is informative and respectful. It’s kind of sad when it’s unusual to find a piece in the secular media about religious practices that have no snark attached.

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