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. Third-party pay has been an expensive and harmful lesson in how insulating the buyer from the cost of their decisions leads to price inflation. Liberty HealthShare is comprised of tens of thousands of self-pay patients who merely choose to share the costs of their care in community with other like-minded families. That's why we are not insurance. It is very important that you understand this from the beginning.
To help transition away from the third-party payment mentality, I would like to help orient you to the healthsharing mentality from my perspective as a member of Liberty HealthShare and as a doctor. As a Liberty HealthShare member, you help other members when they are in need through a process of voluntary sharing. This is the first essential way to think about Liberty HealthShare.
Each month you will send your sharing contribution to Liberty HealthShare. Your monthly contribution is not a premium, but rather your monthly gift to other people in need. By giving to people who are in need of assistance with their medical expenses, you have entered a community whose purpose is sharing with others in their time of need. Nearly all of your monthly contribution is immediately sent to other people to provide for their medical expenses.
Third-party pay breeds an entitlement mentality without personal responsibility. That is the exact opposite of healthsharing. If you incur an eligible medical expense from a doctor visit, procedure, or hospitalization, you won’t have a faceless, bureaucratic third party paying your expenses for you. Rather, your community will help you by sharing in that cost. That’s why every time you make a medical choice, it is important that you consider that you will be asking other members to share their money with you.
The term “sharing” is not just lingo. We use this word because it is what we do. Liberty HealthShare organizationally provides the mechanism for efficient sharing among the community. The money comes to you from other individual members of the community as part of a voluntary process. Any notion of entitlement or contract is inaccurate. We are here to help each other because we choose to, not under compulsion. We do so because it is a moral way to live in community with others.
We also frequently use the term “steward”. Each member is a steward, meaning that each individual bears the responsibility to care for the resources of other members. By joining Liberty HealthShare, you have taken on this essential stewardship role. The individual stewardship of member resources (money) is the most important way that healthsharing ministries can keep costs low. If the members do not act as stewards, costs for all members will certainly rise.
So how do you as a member steward this community’s resources? By applying the same strategy you use in most of your personal financial transactions. Here are a few ideas:
At Liberty HealthShare, we encourage price awareness while striving to eliminate price ignorance. Please become aware of the price of your medical care. Shop around. Get the best value for your money. If you learn the prices, you can become an informed shopper. Informed shoppers lead to price competition, which is a force from which everyone can benefit. Please ask every medical care provider for their prices, and complain and go elsewhere (in non-emergencies) if their prices are too high. Your health deserves at least as much attention as you would give to buying a car.
Please keep yourself healthy. Most diseases are preventable by choosing a healthy lifestyle. Our members commit to doing what they can to stay healthy, not only in their own best interest but also to steward the other members’ resources.
When you obtain medical care, be aware that it is first your own money you are spending and that you are then secondarily asking one or more of your neighbors to assist with your expense. This is the reality of medical cost sharing, even if sometimes the money seems to flow directly from your neighbor to the doctor. It is important for you to be aware that the money to pay your doctor comes from another member, not from some corporate coffer.
Liberty HealthShare is able to keep costs low when you, our members, care about the price of the medical or health services you choose for yourself. With a third-party payer, there would be no reason to care because some big, distant company is paying. But you aren’t in the insurance world now. If you don’t care about cost, the costs to our community will rise.
The alignment of the individual member’s interest with the interests of our community as a whole is important. In this regard, the legal reality is that Liberty HealthShare is not insurance. Indeed, the legal responsibility to pay your medical bills always lies with you, the individual member. Liberty HealthShare assists you by negotiating good prices for medical care, and by streamlining voluntary sharing among our community. The money to share your medical bills comes from voluntary contributions of other members. As a Liberty HealthShare member, you are considered a self-pay patient. Thus, you may personally have to bear financial burdens from a medical expense you incur. So it behooves you, as well as our community, to always choose as wisely as you can.
Liberty HealthShare provides a great opportunity to take personal responsibility for your health, your finances, and your community’s finances. Taken seriously by each individual member, all three responsibilities align to empower you to make your own decisions and to push medical costs down, not just for our community, but for the country too.
Welcome to Liberty HealthShare. We are glad you’re here.
John Hunt, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Liberty HealthShare