When Jase and Jennie Stefanski needed to pay a midwife her $5,000 fee for delivering their sixth child 10 months ago, the money came from an unlikely source: people who are members, like them, of a Christian nonprofit group called Samaritan Ministries. In dribs and drabs, the checks arrived, most between $135 and $320, many with personal notes attached congratulating the family.

The Stefanskis don’t have health insurance. Instead, they belong to a “health-care sharing ministry” whose members follow biblical teachings that they share each other’s burdens — in this case, their medical costs. Each member pays a monthly fee that varies with family size: Single members generally pay $135, couples $270, single-parent families $200 and two-parent families $320. Members pay the first $300 for any medical expense they incur; when they have bills — or “needs,” as they call them — above that amount, they send them to the ministry’s Peoria, Ill., offices. The ministry keeps track of the needs, informing other members where to send their monthly check, and letting those who have made requests know what checks to expect.

If there’s a shortfall one month — the last one at Samaritan was a little over a year ago — every household seeking help gets a prorated portion of its needs covered, and the ministry asks members for voluntary contributions to make up the difference. If the shortfall continues, members vote on raising the share amount.

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