Sharing ministries put health care in the hands of the faithful - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Sharing ministries put health care in the hands of the faithful

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Roughly 1,500 people in South Carolina and 150,000 across the nation are enrolled in what's called a health care sharing ministry, a religious organization that lends as much emotional support to its members as it does financial.

People in health care sharing ministries know their coverage isn't guaranteed. In fact, it depends largely on the good will of their fellow worshippers to submit their payments on time. But for many, it's a way to exercise obedience to their faith.

A few years ago, David Wegener and his family faced the type of medical emergency every family dreads.

"My son had to have an emergency surgery, and we heard from people around the country within hours and it was a tremendous emotional boost for us," said Wegener.

Those people didn't know Wegener or his son, but they were members of his health care sharing ministry, Medishare.

"What we pay in is money that goes to a specific need that other people have and then you find out who this is going to and how its all being shared," said Medishare member Reggie Pennington.

It sounds risky, putting your medical expenses in the hands of strangers, but members say it's better and more affordable than any traditional insurance option available.

"I've never seen an insurance company offer me more than my needs were actually, but I have with the Medishare program," said Wegener.

"You pay the first $1,000 for every event that you submit for sharing," said Pennington.

But legislation to exempt these ministries from insurance company regulations has encountered opposition in the state legislature.

"It's not huge," said state Sen. George Campsen. "It's not a threat to the insurance companies, but for some reason, some insurance companies seem to be opposed to it.

Even without legislation, those enrolled in these ministries are exempt from the Affordable Care Act, and that may attract more members.

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