Exempt from regulation, taxation, and the individual mandate, Christian collectives called health care sharing ministries are paying for the care of their neediest members -- if they approve of the morality of their needs.
In 2006, Ray Carman's health insurance jumped from $600 to $1,000 a month. The reason? His first daughter was born five weeks premature. Though there were no complications during her birth, his daughter was dubbed "high risk" by his insurance company.
Carman, who is a real estate agent and auctioneer in Lafayette, TN, said the costs were simply too high. He began looking for alternatives.
A friend recommended he join a Christian health care sharing plan, a nonprofit in which members pay for each other's medical costs by agreeing to contribute a donation every month. After some research, he joined an organization called Medi-Share.
Since then, $50,000 of his family's medical costs have been taken care of. The care has ranged from an appendectomy, to health coverage for gall bladder complications and maternity costs associated with his wife's subsequent pregnancies and one miscarriage.
But to Carman and 140,000 others who have signed up for these ministries across the country, managing health costs is only part of the benefit. Patients receive notes in the mail or online from other members they have never met, but who share their beliefs, offering encouragement and prayer.