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DPC—healthy lifestyle changes, which can prevent or reverse 70 percent of health concerns, cannot be communi- cated in 10 minutes.”


Medical Cost-Sharing For generations, Christian communities have operated health care sharing min- istries (HCSM) to collectively share the cost of each other’s medical bills as an alternative to outside insurance. Mem- bers are exempt from current Afford- able Healthcare Act (ACA) mandates. Liberty HealthShare, a nonprofit


HCSM chartered by the Mennonite church, believes that everyone has the right to practice religion as they see fit. Their members share a commitment to personal health and sharing in the burden of health expenses with others that have these values. “Many in the functional and


integrative medical arenas also believe in these principles,” says Tom Blue, of Richmond, Virginia, a director with The Institute for Functional Medicine. “Cost sharing feels very familiar; you present your card to your provider, but there’s no set network of providers, which is favorable for those seeking more pro- gressive forms of care.”


Expanding upon this model, Blue


worked with the company to create its Liberty Direct program (Liberty- Direct.org). Individuals pay an annual membership fee plus a monthly share amount. After fulfilling their annual unshared amount of out-of-pocket expenses (similar to a deductible), participants’ healthcare costs—includ- ing approved naturopathic and alterna- tive treatments—can be submitted as expenses to be shared by the group. Liberty Direct provides financial


advantages to DPC practitioners and patients by subsidizing membership fees; it favors nutrition over chronic prescription dependence by reimburs- ing physician-prescribed nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical ex- penses under the same terms. Members must be in good health with a lifestyle that helps sustain well- ness, including good nutrition, exercise and abstinence from tobacco use and drug and alcohol abuse. The program also accepts approximately 7 percent


natural awakenings January 2017 37


of applicants on provisional terms when pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes can be improved through lifestyle changes. They pay an extra fee per month to cover the cost of a health coach; when they achieve their goals, they become full members paying regular rates. “The economics are staggering,”


says Blue, who used to pay $760 a month for insurance with a $12,400 de- ductible and now pays a monthly share of $449 with a family unshared amount


of $1,500. HCSMs are affordable be- cause of restricted overhead budgets. Plus, they appeal to natural-health conscious clients and can decline unsuitable applicants. “This concept of communal cost sharing works—Lib- erty’s share amounts decreased in 2013 and have not changed since,” com- ments Blue.


GreenSurance Told she was past medical hope,


Kari Gray, of Kahului, Hawaii, sought to


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