When we discuss preventative medicine and ways we can take responsibility for our health, annual wellness visits might come to mind as a means to accomplishing both. It seems to be part of the conventional wisdom most of us abide by, at least in theory. We may not make that visit every year, but we know we should. Or should we?
End-of-life planning isn't a topic most people want to discuss. Even when we approach the time at which those conversations make sense, at least some of our loved ones are likely to find the subject depressing or premature. But death is a natural part of this life, and as many of us know from personal experience, the whole experience can be much less traumatic when expectations and wishes have been made known ahead of time. There's no time like the present to begin planning and discussing this subject with your family and friends. In fact, Monday, April 16th offers the perfect opportunity, as it is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), an initiative of The Conversation Project.
Chances are, you or a loved one has been personally touched by a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that impacts the body's ability to handle glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood. Most people who suffer from the condition have type 2 diabetes, which results from the body not using insulin as well as it should, a condition called "insulin resistance." This type of diabetes used to be known colloquially as "adult-onset," but due to an epidemic of obesity among children, more and more children and teens are now diagnosed in the United States each year.
When members join Liberty HealthShare, we understand they must undergo a "paradigm shift" in their engagement with the healthcare system, especially if they have previously used a third-party payer. That's why many of our blog posts are educational in nature - we know it takes some repetition and explanation in order for our members to understand and embrace the healthcare sharing mentality. We often get emails from members who simply want to say "thank you" to our staff and membership community for the part we have played in their health journey. It's always encouraging to us when we hear from happy members, but it's particularly rewarding when a member has obviously taken the time to understand and live out the stewardship values we hold dear.
When we’re just kids, running and playing with our friends is second nature. When we're free to choose how and when we will play, we have almost limitless energy, but as we get older, something shifts. Usually, no thanks to gym class, we no longer run because it’s fun, but rather because the teacher standing on the track is using his stopwatch to rate our performance.
The enrollment process with Liberty HealthShare includes a review of applicant health for two main reasons: first, because we are a community united by our shared belief in God, we agree together to honor him by stewarding our bodies as the gifts they are. Second, as we share medical costs as a community, that stewardship of our bodies results in the reduction of avoidable medical expenses. One of the lifestyle expectations we have for our members is that they will not engage in any kind of tobacco use.
Late last month, Liberty HealthShare Executive Director Dale Bellis met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to a) update them on the growth of healthcare sharing households across America, b) inform them of the positive impact membership in a healthcare sharing ministry has on its members, and c) educate them on the value of making Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) accessible to members of healthcare sharing ministries. We're happy to say that Congress is taking action on this issue.
From time to time, our members find themselves wearing the educator's hat when interacting with physicians and other staff at their providers' offices. Despite its long history, healthcare sharing is still a new concept to many, even those within the healthcare profession. Michigan member Yvonne M. enrolled with Liberty HealthShare along with her husband in late 2015. Last year, she and her husband found themselves facing outright antagonism about their Liberty membership not once but four separate times over the course of one medical incident.
Have you ever noticed how making changes in one area of your life can cause you to reevaluate other, seemingly unrelated areas? Take health, for example. You make the commitment to start eating more healthily and, over time, you notice you have more energy. Greater energy translates into a desire to move more, so you join a gym and start attending classes. Then you recognize that your stress level is more manageable, and you feel so great that you start enjoying your hobbies again, further lowering your stress.
Like many of you, we here at Liberty HealthShare have been watching and waiting to see what Congress will do regarding federal healthcare policy. In fact, Liberty has participated in discussions on Capitol Hill, making sure healthcare sharing remains recognized, protected, and available as a method of paying medical costs for our members. At this point, it appears Congress is an at an impasse and no changes to the Affordable Care Act are imminent. Therefore, we are business as usual. Earlier this year, we asked you to reach out to Congressional representatives to ask for continued recognition and protection of healthcare sharing. Many of you contacted us asking for more instructions on how to speak with legislators or their staff members. Since we may ask you to contact your representatives again in the future, we pulled together some best practices.
Clifford R. Stoller, MD is Board Certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and is a member of Liberty HealthShare. Having recently retired from private practice, Dr. Stoller contacted us and offered to volunteer his services in the management of spine disorders. In this guest physician post, Dr. Stoller draws particular attention to the pitfalls of conventional wisdom regarding back pain, a broad symptom that can lead to improper, expensive treatments, up to and including surgery.
If you have been a Liberty HealthShare member for any length of time, you know that we ask our members to be actively engaged with the cost of their care so that, as a community, we can wisely steward and preserve the financial resources we all share in times of unexpected and unaffordable medical need. Any time we interact with the healthcare industry as patients, from a yearly check-up to an unforeseen surgical intervention, we alone have the power to compare prices and choose how and where we will access healthcare.
Recent months have held ongoing legislative discussions concerning the possible repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Although Liberty HealthShare does not align with or endorse any political party, we make a point of staying on top of any policy developments that might affect our membership at both the federal and state level. Several months ago, Liberty HealthShare Executive Director Dale Bellis and HealthShare Radio host John Daly interviewed former Virginia governor and presidential candidate Jim Gilmore.
by John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare Doctors are busy, often times and unfortunately because they are filling out forms for bureaucracies. This busyness can leave patients feeling cheated, like they are fighting for their physician’s full attention in the short amount of one-on-one time they actually get with him or her. So how can you get what you need and steward yours and your fellow members’ resources well when you often have barely any time to speak to the doctor?
In last month's post, I shared my main motivation for pursuing health: love for my grandchildren. What keeps me on track and making healthy choices is the desire to be in their lives for a long time. Not only do I want to be around, but I also want to be able to keep up with them and actively participate in all the important events that will define their lives over the years to come. In the motivation post, I detailed a long list of excuses which, from time to time, we are all guilty of making where our health and fitness are concerned. Life is stressful, busy, and tiring. Work, friends, family, and our other commitments play tug-of-war with our time and energy. Sometimes the only thing that helps us achieve success is an incentive...some sort of carrot we can chase on our way to better health (better carrots than cake!). So I asked our members, "What motivates you?" Or said a different way, "What is your driving force?"
From time to time, we hear from a member who experienced an emergency medical cost just days or weeks after joining Liberty HealthShare. Dealing with a large expense like an emergency room visit can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are new to the concept of healthcare sharing. CindyAnn S., a Liberty HealthShare member in Florida, found herself in this position when her son broke his arm just 9 days into their membership. Here is her story:
Elaina George, MD Physician Advisory Board Chairman, Liberty HealthShare Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the American healthcare system has undergone significant changes that affect everyone, whether they are patients or not. The price of health insurance and out of pocket costs have continued to rise while access has fallen. In fact, the US healthcare system remains the most expensive in the world, and yet it continues to rank last compared to other western countries. Additionally, there has been a decrease in the number of private physicians, community and rural hospitals have closed, and prescription drug costs have continued to rise. As a result, Americans continue to pay more for prescription medication than patients in other countries do.
If you are a Liberty HealthShare member, you know we are not an insurance company. We are unique in many ways, most of all because we are driven by a member focus rather than a desire to please shareholders and collect profits. We facilitate the sharing of medical costs among the people who participate in this voluntary community, but the funds come from our members, not corporate coffers. For this reason, we often remind our members to do everything they can to reduce the often outrageous costs associated with healthcare. There are a variety of ways in which we encourage this stewardship mindset. One of them is through our pre-notification process.
The dictionary defines “motivation” this way: The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. Motivation has become quite the popular topic in the past several decades. Everywhere you look, books by influential motivational speakers top the bestseller list. Courses and conferences sell out. Clearly, people are looking for reasons and ways to achieve more; to become the best version of themselves. How many times have we eagerly started a weight loss program or joined a gym, karate, or Zumba class with every intention of attending the classes regularly? For the first month or two, we are faithful. Then our motivation begins to fizzle and the next thing you know, once again, we stop going altogether and we make every excuse to justify not exercising or eating healthily.
Our members come from a variety of backgrounds, but we've found that the majority decide to join Liberty HealthShare for the same reason: at some point, they realized insurance was not an ideal way to face healthcare costs. With their financial commitment rising and the payoff diminishing, they make a bold move and leave insurance behind in favor of a Christian community characterized by personal responsibility and the stewardship of health and resources. Charles R. is one such member in Texas, and this is his story.
The past few years have held some interesting developments in various industries. In the hotel and hospitality arena, for instance, Airbnb has taken the world by storm, putting choice regarding travel into the hands of the consumer. It's no longer the expectation that travel must include a hotel stay and the associated costs you can be guaranteed to incur. Instead, travelers can choose not only the amount they prefer to pay, but also the arrangements, the proximity to their destination, and how much they want to engage with and experience what the particular location has to offer.
John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare Advancements in technology bring costs down in most every sector of the economy. Consider that computers, which used to take up an entire floor of a building, now fit in the palm of your hand, and with exponentially higher processing power than in the past. Yet all this increased computing power comes to us far cheaper each year than the one before.
John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare The last several decades have brought great advances in the science of medicine, but the art of medicine has been increasingly abandoned. However, healthsharing—if taken to heart by each and every Liberty HealthShare member and recognized for what it is—can empower the art of medicine toward rebirth. If you go to the effort of identifying a good primary care doctor for yourself and your family, you, your fellow members, and the healthcare community at large will be well served.
ohn Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare To our recently enrolled members, welcome, and congratulations on your effort to escape the third-party healthcare payment system where somebody else pays the bill, e.g., an insurance company, an employer, or the government. This transition is not necessarily easy because most folks have been in the third-party payment system for so long that they have forgotten (or never experienced) what it’s like to make medical care choices based on both quality and price .
John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare In an era of constantly growing government, what can physicians and patients do to avoid getting abused and poorly treated by our politicized medical system? The answer is simple: NOT what physicians and patients have done for decades. What physicians did wrong was to stop advocating for their patient’s finances. What patients did wrong was to stop asking how much their care will cost. After all, why bother to ask if some faceless, distant insurance company, or the government, is footing the bill?
John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer, National Coalition of Healthcare Sharing Ministries As members of the Liberty HealthShare community, each of us has the responsibility to steward the resources of the entire membership. In order for healthcare sharing to function the way it should, we are duty-bound to try and save money whenever we access the health system. And let’s not be naïve: the health system is out to take all the money it can.
Members of healthcare sharing ministries are a unique breed. We are determined to protect our individual liberties, and yet we have committed ourselves to sharing with this community. These two behaviors may seem incongruous to some, but we believe they go hand in hand. For many of us, it is our individual freedom that compels us to share with others as they share with us. We want others to remain free as well. Participating in elections is one of the main ways we preserve and protect our unalienable rights.
Getting the most medical care for your money John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer Thirty-to-Fifty percent of medical procedures and tests are wasteful. As members of a Christian healthcare sharing ministry, each of us is obliged to think conscientiously about the choices we make regarding medical expenses. Certainly, if I ask my community to share in my medical expense, I ought to work very hard to make sure that the expense is reasonable.
When costs became her number one concern, Karen found Liberty HealthShare. Whatever your reason for joining Liberty HealthShare; whether it’s our community of like-minded people, the freedom that comes with directing and managing your own healthcare, or the financial responsibility you can exercise as a member, we are glad you are here. It is our goal that you experience all these benefits and more through your membership. Just recently, Karen O. from Florida shared her impressions with us:
Giving, not receiving, is what Liberty HealthShare is about. by John Hunt, MD Chief Medical Officer Liberty HealthShare is creating a system in which voluntarily sharing your resources with others is not limited to your immediate geographic surroundings. Our community is aided by the internet, so you can help others in need anywhere deal with the misfortune of having an illness or injury at a time in history when health care costs are so hyperinflated that the costs are often as destructive as the diseases themselves. In addition to helping ill members with such financial struggles, you can now be part of a process of fixing the problems that caused health care prices to become so ridiculously high.
Is there a magic formula to setting and then sticking to a New Year's Resolution? Do you have to have super human willpower? Is there any hope for us mere mortals? The short answers are no, no, and yes! The new year can be a great time to make changes and set out to improve whatever aspects of your life YOU believe need improvement. Plus, there are ways to increase your odds of success.
Robert K. of New Jersey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 16. It was a worrisome diagnosis for an athletic young man, and at the time, diabetes was more difficult to track and treat. Lifestyle changes were needed and Robert rose to the occasion, saying, “It was never difficult for me to manage the inconvenience of having diabetes. I would not accept complications arising from my disease."
by John Hunt, MD In 2011, the state of Virginia tried to block the Federal government’s overreach by passing a law that made it illegal for any individual to be compelled to purchase health insurance. Unfortunately, a loophole was sewn in; one that allowed universities to demand that their students carry health insurance.
The mindset every member should have Becoming a Liberty HealthShare member is a liberating step. You’ve abandoned bureaucratic models of paying for healthcare and embraced freedom. Your status as a self-pay patient sharing medical expenses with others of like mind allows you to access the best medical care available at the lowest cost possible. In addition, you have engaged the most powerful consumer weapon in healthcare: the self-pay patient! You have the twin advantage of a vast community sharing your costs while you watch over your own expenses as an individual patient. After all, it’s your money! And who better to watch over your money than you! This paradigm shift, once embraced, changes everything, keeping costs low and your healthcare options intact!
One of the main qualities that sets Liberty HealthShare apart from traditional methods of paying for healthcare is the fact that we encourage and depend upon our members taking personal responsibility for their own health care. This distinctive feature plays a huge part in reducing costs for members of our Christian healthcare sharing ministry.
The shape of healthcare is changing with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation, and one of the main elements about which many Americans are excited is the inclusion of free preventative care in all health insurance under the ACA. This type of preventative care covers an annual physical and other basic tests and screenings that can help identify health problems early on potentially preventing more serious health conditions from developing.
In the medical world, it seems like costs are always rising. However, there are a few key situations in which costs have actually dropped for individuals. One of these is in the case of members of medical cost sharing ministries, which are allowable under the Affordable Care Act. Liberty HealthShare members actually saw their monthly share amount drop by $50 from 2013 to 2014.
Liberty HealthShare's predecessor and parent ministry is a faith-based group that began in 1988 as a group of Christians who shared end-of-life medical and funeral expenses. Since then, the group has expanded to include a wide range of eligible medical expenses, ultimately becoming Liberty HealthShare. We are not health insurance, but rather we make it possible for individuals to share in one another's eligible medical expenses. This is allowable under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and for that reason, it has grown rapidly in recent years.
Last spring, John Daly, an award-winning, internationally-known journalist, news anchor, producer, writer, author, and TV host went from skepticism to belief in the validity of medical cost sharing. A media analyst and former guest on The Tavis Smiley Show, Daly tuned in one day and heard Smiley interviewing Dr. Elaina George, a board-certified ENT physician from Atlanta, Georgia and Liberty HealthShare member. During the course of the broadcast, Dr. George mentioned cost sharing and Liberty HealthShare in particular. This unique concept stopped Daly in his tracks. He wondered, “What is this?”
During 2012, the average health care spending per person in the United States was $8,895, which is among the highest rates of healthcare spending in the world. In general, the medical care available today is expensive because of all the training, research, administration, and technology involved in making the care possible. This can be further broken down into specific aspects of care and actions of patients and health care professionals that contribute to high overall medical costs in the United States. Here are a few:
Maryann Fitzpatrick recently shared her experience with submitting her Liberty HealthShare member ID card at a provider's office. Here are excerpts from her Facebook post: I used my membership card for the first time today, first at my new primary, and later at a specialist he referred me to. Neither office was familiar with the concept (of healthcare sharing), but both were intrigued.