One of the key values that animates the work of Liberty HealthShare is right there in our name: liberty. We believe our members should be able to access the healthcare that is best for them and their families, without bureaucratic oversight or interference. It's especially rewarding for us when we find out this emphasis on freedom has positively impacted members on a practical level, enabling them to get the care they need in a timely manner.
This was just the case for Mary and Dan K., members from Texas whose children have endured serious health issues in recent years. We recently talked with Mary about their experience as Liberty HealthShare members through a difficult and frightening season. Here is some of our conversation:
What led your family to join Liberty HealthShare?
I was at a homeschool fair and happened to see information about a Catholic healthcare sharing ministry. It piqued my interest, so I started doing research online, made a lot of phone calls, and did some cost-comparisons among ministries. Ultimately, we chose Liberty because we could have them billed directly for our care by submitting the member ID card to our providers. We also loved the shared beliefs and sharing guidelines that emphasized healthy choices for members. We appreciated that we wouldn't have to share in costs associated with behaviors that are destructive.
What experience has defined your membership?
Two years ago, our 11-year-old daughter Bethany was playing lightsabers with her brother when she suddenly collapsed. When help arrived, her heart rate was so high that they couldn't even get a heartbeat. She was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The doctors said she'd need a cardiac ablation. All I could think was, "How are we going to pay for that?" When I called Liberty, my first question for the representative was, "Are you going to kick us off?" She was so nice. She said, "Honey, that's what we're here for. We're here for you when you need it."
We walked into the hospital, handed our card over, and Bethany had the surgery, but even afterward, her blood pressure was still out of control. She would have episodes during which her heart would race, she would come close to passing out, and she would vomit constantly. We couldn't figure out what was causing it. Her pediatrician and cardiologist referred us to the Mayo Clinic. Again, I called Liberty in tears and asked, "Are you going to leave us?" Again, they said, "No, do what you need to do."
Two trips to the Mayo Clinic later, we received a diagnosis of dysautonomia. In short, it meant that Bethany's autonomic nervous system (ANS) was failing her, which meant her body couldn't regulate blood pressure, digestion, or other autonomic functions. She was in a wheelchair for a time and could barely leave the house. She slept 20 hours a day and we all lived in fear of her heart going into arrhythmia.
Dysautonomia can be a devastating diagnosis, but because Liberty has always allowed us to seek treatment without restrictive networks or endless referrals and paperwork, we have been able to completely sidestep many of the complications that generally come with her illness and the delay in treatment that results from the length of time it takes to get a diagnosis. The average length of time for a diagnosis of dysautonomia is typically 5 to 7 years, but we were able to get a diagnosis and begin treatment within just four months! We didn't have to go to specialist after specialist. Instead, we were actually able to ask our physicians, "Where would you send YOUR kids?" and then take their advice. We were ultimately referred to specialists in Memphis and Atlanta who started her on a treatment and medication regimen. In allowing us to get the care our daughter needed right away, Liberty actually SAVED hundreds of thousands of dollars in longer-term medical costs.
I have had nothing but positive experiences when dealing with Liberty personnel. The hospital did try to balance bill us for $80,000 after the ablation surgery. That part was terrifying, but Liberty, MedCost Solutions, and AMPS were with us every step of the way, taking care of it for us.
Along the way, we've been able to help medical staff at various institutions see just how beneficial healthcare sharing really is. We've also had our eyes opened to the massive overcharging that happens in medical billing, which has made us even savvier as medical consumers.
We still make the cross-country trips to visit Bethany's specialists because they are some of the only physicians who treat her particular condition, but she is now 13 and most people probably wouldn't even know there's anything wrong with her. She is doing fantastically well, likely will NOT suffer many long-term problems, and will be able to lead a pretty normal life.
Just a few weeks ago, we traveled to Atlanta to see one of Bethany's specialists, but this time it was for our 11-year-old son Adam. Believe it or not, we found out 3 weeks ago that he also has dysautonomia. Thankfully, because we already had great doctors caring for Bethany and because Liberty doesn't hassle us with referrals and such, we got him diagnosed within TWO MONTHS of symptom onset. Again, this saved untold thousands of dollars and likely months - really, more like years - of suffering and confusion.
What advice would you give new Liberty HealthShare members about how they can be successful in their membership?
Don't be afraid of healthcare sharing just because it's an unfamiliar way to fund your healthcare costs. When I joined, I was afraid of handing the card over and spent the first few doctor's appointments apologizing, but with time, I've discovered that I've gotten more comfortable talking about it.
I recommend seeking out fee-for-service facilities too. We have started dealing with some and we're thrilled with this arrangement. There's no quibbling because we are self-pay patients and the costs are transparent.
If you don't understand something about your membership or how your bills are being handled, don't be afraid to ask. The staff at Liberty are there to help.
In your opinion, what is the best/most important facet of this community?
We deeply appreciate knowing we are being helped by other people who are just like us. Seeing notes of encouragement in the ShareBox brightens our day. I love nothing more than to write notes to others with whom we are sharing medical expenses.
When I've called Liberty to ask questions, I can't tell you how much it meant to get a human being on the phone; someone who actually cared. I haven't felt like a number or a pain in the neck to any of the representatives I've talked to. One lady even remembered who my daughter was when I called. That's what it's supposed to be like.
I sing Liberty's praises to anyone who will listen because if it weren't for LHS, we would very likely still be fighting for a diagnosis for both of our kids. My in-laws have joined. So have receptionists from our doctor's offices!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We can't thank you enough for the freedom you have given us, which has not only kept our kids far healthier than they would be with actuaries and CPAs lording over their care but has also saved us tens of thousands of dollars. We love knowing what we owe, what's eligible for sharing, and what's not. It's that simple. Thank you, thank you for the great work you're doing, for making it possible for us to fund our healthcare in this way, and for helping us maintain our sanity through the roller coaster of our kids' issues the past two years!
Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to share your story with us and your fellow members. We're thrilled to hear that your kids are getting the care they need, that your experience with Liberty HealthShare and our vendors has been so positive, and that you have experienced first-hand what it's like to have your healthcare freedom restored through membership. Feedback like this has the power to encourage not only our staff and members but also those who might be considering joining this extraordinary sharing community!