Health Care Sharing Ministries Comparison Part 1: Religious and Ethical Standards

I was tempted to call this post “sex, drugs, and worship,” but thought it might leave way too many people disappointed.  One of the first questions for anyone considering participation in an HCSM is whether they can honestly agree with the religious and/or ethical standards laid out for the group.  This post will outline those religious and ethical standards for each of the sharing organizations.

WARNING: This series of posts about health insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Many of the plans have several general philosophical principles, but the ones I want to discuss here are the binding religious and ethical standards that pertain to membership.  Some are absolute–like abstaining from illegal drug or tobacco use–while others are more subjective, like agreeing not to abuse alcohol.  We’ll start with the easiest ones first.

Before diving in, just to keep things simple: so far as the qualifications, Liberty1 and AlieraCare2 use the exact same language.  When referring to Liberty, know that the same applies to AlieraCare.

Tobacco

All of the sharing organizations prohibit tobacco use while a member. Samaritan Ministries3 makes an exception for a rare celebratory cigar or pipe, giving the example of the birth of a baby.  Medi-Share4 requires that members have not used tobacco in the preceding 12 months.

Alcohol

All of the sharing organizations address alcohol use in some form.  Medi-Share requires that members not abuse alcohol, and that they haven’t in the preceding 12 months.  Christian Healthcare Ministries5 and Liberty HealthShare require that you follow scriptural teachings on the use/abuse of alcohol.  In the case of Liberty, that requirement is more lenient, as one of the shared beliefs is that you have the right to worship in your own way.  Altrua 6 simply requires that you not consume in excess.

Samaritan Ministries requires you to choose one of two options.  Option 1 is to abstain from all beverages containing alcohol, with wine used for communion as the only exception.  Option 2 is to “limit consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts so as to never drink to drunkenness.”  There’s no sense in choosing option 1, as it’s more restrictive than option 2, unless you want to increase your likelihood of getting kicked out.

Drug Use

All of the sharing organizations have some requirement related to drug use:

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries Abstain from illegal use of drugs.  This presumably addresses both use of illegal drugs as well as illegal or excessive use of prescription or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Medi-Share Drug use is addressed under a prohibition on unhealthy lifestyles.  Illegal drug use is explicitly prohibited, along with abuse of prescription and OTC medicine.  Applicants must attest that neither illegal drug use or illegal use of legal drugs has occured in the preceding 12 months.
  • Samaritan Ministries No abuse of legal or prescribed substances, total abstention of illegal drugs and recreational use of marijuana.  While the prohibition on illegal drug use would seemingly include a prohibition on the use of medical marijuana, the wording gives rise to possibly permitting it.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare This one is a little complex, in that it names quite a few substances.  Unlike the others, abuse of prescription drugs is defined.  Abuse is “consuming prescription medications in a manner not intended by the prescriber that would likely result in bodily harm or dependency.”  That means that simply using a medicine in a different manner than prescribed by itself wouldn’t be abuse.
  • Altrua “The use of any form of illicit drugs is harmful to the body and soul.”

Health/Exercise

These requirements are very imprecise.  Generally, they require something in regard to doing things to maintain your health.  Obviously, with shared costs, anything that can be done to stay healthy benefits the member directly, and reduces the long-term costs associated with sharing.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries No explicit requirement.
  • Medi-Share “Members should strive to maintain healthy lifestyles”
  • Samaritan Ministries Members “agree to practice good health measures in accordance with the principle that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Liberty/AlieraCare “Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods that do not harm the body.”
  • Altrua “We keep our bodies clean and healthy with proper nutrition.”

Marriage and Sex

Now that you’ve eaten healthy and exercised, let’s head to the bedroom. Liberty HealthShare and AlieraCare stand out from the others as the only ones that don’t require or imply requiring sex within traditional marriages.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries No specific requirement, however they require that you be “a person who embraces and follows the teaching of the New Testament in its entirety.”  This presumably prohibits sex outside of marriage, as well as non-traditional marriages among members.
  • Medi-Share “Sexual relations only within a Biblical Christian Marriage.”  This doesn’t explicitly define Biblical Christian Marriage, but the use of capitalization implies that they have something in mind.  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
  • Samaritan Ministries No sexual activity “outside of traditional Biblical marriage as designed by God between one man and one woman.”  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare No requirements related to sexual activity or marriage.
  • Altrua Marriage must be between a man and a woman; no sex outside of marriage.

Worship

Some of the sharing organizations have requirements for worship; however, this carries very little practical weight except in the case of Samaritan Ministries.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries “must attend group worship regularly as health permits.”  Does not require organized church service–this could be a bible study or other similar gathering.
  • Medi-Share No specific worship requirement.
  • Samaritan Ministries Members must “attend a Christian church regularly (at least three out of four weeks per month that your health or weather permits).”  Samaritan Ministries requires an annual statement from your pastor supporting your claim to meet this requirement.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare No specific worship requirement.
  • Altrua No specific worship requirement.

Summary of Religious and Ethical Standards

Liberty HealthShare easily has the least restrictive membership requirements.  Smokers will have a tough time on any plan, but Liberty HealthShare does accept smokers as members, charges an extra $80/month fee, and assigns you a health coach to help you quit.  Others may as well, but the criteria are less clear.  In general, outside of Samaritan Ministries, none of the requirements are very difficult to meet or to keep up with.  If pre-marital sex or non-traditional relationships come into play, the field narrows quickly.

New Awning Fabric, Under $100!

It’s new awning time!  After a tear in the Sunbrella fabric that was put on in 2012, it was time for something a little different.  I was never happy with the Sunbrella material–it tore easily, and was too tightly woven to allow light breezes to pass through.  In other words, it was always fluttering.  At 5 years old, it needed to go.

My old Safari motorhome had a different material–instead of an acrylic fabric, it had a vinyl-coated polyester mesh.  When I sold that rig at 21 years old, its original awnings still looked brand new.  There wasn’t the slightest tear, they breathed well, and water couldn’t pool on them. (In a hard enough rain, water would drip through)  I’ve been able to find the same stuff, but only in 60″ widths, and it’s quite expensive.

While looking for something else, I came across this material that I could get for about $75 big enough to do one of my 10’x16′ awnings with no seams.

It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it’s an open mesh, non-fraying, and most importantly, cheap enough to try.  If you look at the reviews, there are lots of people that leave them out in all kinds of weather (not always without incident), standing up better than you’d expect with most RV canopies.

Continue reading New Awning Fabric, Under $100!

The HCSM: Healthcare Sharing in General

After a couple of dense, long posts that were kind of dreary in tone, it’s time to shed some light on a set of viable options for RVers.  Generally, what I’m referring to in this post are Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs).

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading The HCSM: Healthcare Sharing in General

ACA/Marketplace Insurance Policies for Full-Time RVers: One Size Fits Few

By the time you’re done reading this post, it’ll probably be pretty clear there’s little love lost on the insurance providers I’ve dealt with.  They don’t get what full-time RVers do, or they get it and don’t like it.  I don’t get anything for my opinions here (if I was, I probably wouldn’t get away with what follows).

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading ACA/Marketplace Insurance Policies for Full-Time RVers: One Size Fits Few

“Insurance” for Full-Timers

Phew!  Yes, this post and the ones that follow on this subject are going to touch on some sensitive subjects, but dealing with medical care is both sensitive and plays a large role in our comfort, security, and freedom to travel.  This first post is intended to outline some of what conventional insurance is and how it works.  The follow-on posts will cover some of the issues for RVers, including insurance alternatives, and my experiences with them.

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading “Insurance” for Full-Timers

Camera for Hood-Mounted Mirror

NOTE: This post is something I wrote back in May 2015, and was published on the Escapees HDT Forum.  Here it is with a few minor updates.  Still my most-used electronic driving aid!

After adding a Volvo hood-mounted mirror, I still wasn’t quite happy with how well I could see my front right corner. I feel like I have really good coverage down the side with the normal and wide angle mirrors, the over-the-window mirror, and now the hood mirror.

This afternoon, I added a camera to the mirror, facing down, so I can finally see how close I really am. Total project cost was about $35–slightly more for the Voyager connector I needed ($18) than for the camera ($17). Here’s how I went about it (with a few pictures).

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Step Covers from a Door Mat

This short write-up about making custom step covers goes back to something I did years ago on my first RV, and quickly duplicated after getting my current one.

The Problem

Inevitably, dirt gets tracked in.  In a campsite with grass, a paved site or patio, or good gravel, it’s not too bad.  But sandy and/or muddy areas become a problem.  I can take off my shoes, Milo wears his “shoes” all the time.

Off-the-shelf RV step rugs aren’t often the exact side you need, and tape/velcro doesn’t work too well to keep them in place, especially if you have carpeted steps.

Making your own Step Covers

Here’s what you need (everything can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Menard’s, etc.):

  • Hammer
  • Snap kit
  • Rug
  • Wood screws (#8 x 1/2″) and screwdriver

The Rug

There are lots of rugs that would work for this, but at the very least it needs to be one that you can cut to size with a knife or scissors, preferably with nothing around the edges.  Here’s an example:

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The first order of business is cutting the rug into pieces to fit the steps.  That should be pretty self-explanatory.

Next, anchor two of the male half of the snaps with a screw near the front outside edges of the stair tread:

Step with snaps installed

Lay the rug on the stair tread, and mark the location of the snaps.  Cut a small hole for the female side of the snap, and use a hammer and the rivet tool included with the snaps to set it in place.  That’s it!

Step cover snapped into place

 

My Trusty Toastmaster 1B14 Toaster

When I first started RVing, a little over 11 years ago, I bought a new toaster.  It wasn’t fancy–a two slice Toastmaster bought for about $20.  It worked fairly well, from 2006 until 2013.  But it failed, and the circuit board with the timer wasn’t repairable.  It was a throwaway appliance, made in China.

Grandma’s Toaster

That failure was disappointing.  I remember an old toaster in my grandmother’s kitchen that they got not long after they were married.  It had a battle scar from falling off of the top of the curved refrigerator where it lived when not in use.  But it was regularly in use for more than half a century–that kitchen cranked out some of the best breakfasts on the planet.

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Water Misters, Part 2: How Much Money Can I Save?

The water misters can make the air conditioner perform better, but does it make sense to use them?  Of course, if you’re in a campground with unmetered water and electricity, there are no immediate savings other than comfort.

Electricity is one of the bigger costs in operating an RV park though, so we all pay in some form or another. The park doesn’t get it for free, and the cost is ultimately passed on to the consumer, so everything we can do to reduce our own usage benefits the community at large.

Calculating Air Conditioner Costs

If we make a few assumptions about air conditioner usage, we can estimate the cost of running one for an hour.

For now, let’s take 12 amps as the average load running at 120VAC, and assume a power factor of one.  Running the air conditioner one hour consumes 1.44kWh, and a national average residential electricity price of $0.129/kWh gives us a cost of about $0.19 per hour.  If the air conditioner runs about 1/4 of the time through the summer, it costs about $33/month to run.

Now let’s consider the scenario using the misters.  They reduce the power needed to run the air conditioner by about 10% in my testing, or about $0.02 per hour.  But if the air conditioner was previously able to keep up, it will also run less.  How much is heavily dependent on the weather, but it could easily be a 25% reduction.  That’s over $10 per month, per air conditioner.

But let’s also consider the water usage.  If we set it up so the misters only operate when the air conditioner is on, and that we use 0.5gal/h of water, we’d use 3 gallons a day.  At the national average price of water, that’s less than half a cent–a negligible amount.

So far, it looks like the misters make sense as far as utility costs.  The campground benefits (in most cases) from your using them.  What if we’re not grid-connected?

Misting While Boondocking

Here’s where it gets more complicated.  Most RVers probably only run air conditioners with their generators running when they don’t have hookups.  With a limited water supply, you’re particularly conscious of its use, but you may also want to cool the RV quickly after a day away from it.

Let’s look at the previous math slightly differently.  Instead of $0.129/kWh, let’s assume we have a generator that uses 0.5gal/h of diesel at idle, and 1.0gal/h with both air conditioners running.  If we only consider running the generator with both air conditioners on, each one is using 0.5gal/h.  At about $3/gal for diesel, that’s $1.50/h.

If we’re operating the misters effectively enough to reduce runtime by 25%, we reduce the hourly cost from $1.50 to $1.13.  That’s $0.38/hour.  Looking just at that part of the equation, the misters can pay for themselves really quickly.  The savings would pay for the misters in a couple of weeks running 2 air conditioners for 3 hours a day.

But we’re using water from our fresh water tanks, which has a much higher cost, especially in terms of convenience, than a municipal or campground supply.  If it’s 3 gallons a day, in the same two weeks we’ve used 42 gallons each of water and diesel.  You quickly arrive at a situation where the answer is it depends.  In my case, if the tanks were all full at the start, neither one is limiting.  Staying longer than two weeks, fuel and holding tanks would become the limiting factor before fresh water.  I’d run the misters.  How about you?

Next time I post on this subject, I’ll cover setting it up to run efficiently.  It’ll be triggered by the air conditioner’s compressor running, so the nozzles don’t run when the air conditioner doesn’t.

Lithium Batteries and Upgrading the 12V DC Power System

Last fall, I wrote about installing a PC power supply to power the remaining 12V DC loads in my RV, but that’s getting replaced with a DC-DC converter.  The power supply did the job it was supposed to, without fail.  But there are a few drawbacks with it:

  • The power supply converts AC power from the inverter to 12V DC.  That means the inverter is on, and there’s an extra conversion that wastes energy.
  • Under load, the 12V output from the power supply is lower than I’d like.  At the source, it drops to about 11V, and my rig’s 12V wiring is mediocre at best.  Vent fans, water pumps, etc. all run a little slow.
  • The power supply doesn’t respond well to sudden load increases.  This is most evident with the stereo system.

Continue reading Lithium Batteries and Upgrading the 12V DC Power System