If you are a Christian who doesn’t smoke,
abstains from sex outside your heterosexual marriage, and can get your priest
to vouch that you go to church at least three times a month, you may
qualify for a new Catholic alternative to health insurance.
Taking a cue from evangelicals, a group of
traditionalist Catholics on October 2 unveiled a cost-sharing network that they
say honors their values and ensures that they are not even indirectly
supporting health care services such as abortion that contradict their beliefs.
Christ Medicus Foundation CURO, as the group is
called, will be financially integrated with Samaritan Ministries International,
which was launched in 1991 by an evangelical home-schooling dad. The SMI
network now serves 125,000 people and is exempt from the Affordable Care Act.
“Think about the gospels and how the apostles lived,” said CMF CURO director
Louis A. Brown Jr. at the program’s Washington, D.C., debut. “They very much
shared and cared for each other. And we’re saying: ‘Catholics, you can do that
CMF CURO was founded independent of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops; officials there did not offer comment on
it. Proponents of “health care sharing” say they are not insurance plans, but
ministries that cut Christians’ health care costs and tend to their souls.
The groups, according to the Illinois-based Alliance of Health Care
Sharing Ministries, together include more than 300,000 Americans.
Critics point out that health care sharing
programs are unregulated, and that there is no guarantee that any particular
medical need will be covered. As Jonathan Gruber, a health care economist
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNBC: “The whole goal
of health-care reform is to ensure that people are protected against risk and
illness, and this violates that fundamental goal.”
As with similar programs, those who join CMF CURO
expect other members to pay for most of their medical costs—except
preventive health care and pre-existing conditions—for expenses of up to
$250,000 for each medical need in the basic program.
For a two-parent household, CMF CURO
costs $489 a month; an individual plan costs $264 a month. Members vote on
whether to raise the costs of membership, and the program will pay health care
providers 125 percent of what they get from Medicare.
And as members of Samaritan and other health-sharing
networks have testified, CMF CURO members can also expect notes, cards, and
drawings, from the children of fellow members with prayers for a speedy
recovery, said Anthony Hopp, SMI’s director of membership.
Given its standards for members’ conduct, the
group won’t accept all Christians. And many who do qualify may not choose CMF
CURO as their exclusive means of paying for health care. (“Curo” is Latin for
“to care for.”)