Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Open Enrollment"? Samaritan Ministries is always open!

2016 health insurance open enrollment is currently about halfway through, with a deadline of January 31st, 2016. The ObamaCare tax/penalty for not having health insurance is substantially higher for 2016 than it was in previous years: 2.5% of household income, or $695 per adult - whichever is higher.

Costs for health insurance have skyrocketed, and competition has plummeted; in fact, premiums in Oklahoma are set to jump 35%, with only two companies offering plans here. Some states have only one insurance company available.

I've blogged previously about my wife and I being members of Samaritan Ministries, a healthcare-sharing ministry. We opted out of traditional health insurance three years ago, and joined this wonderful organization.

Here are a few distinctives about Samaritan Ministries:

  • No narrow enrollment period

Unlike traditional insurance, you can sign up with Samaritan Ministries at any time of the year.

  • Stable, affordable cost

The monthly cost ranges from $180 for a single person under 26, to $495 for a 3+ person family. Monthly share rates increase only by a two-thirds vote of the membership, so the cost is much more stable than health insurance.

  • Usable

Health insurance deductibles can easily be $5,000 or more, in addition to other out-of-pocket costs. Health-care sharing ministries like Samaritan Ministries have a few things that aren't eligible to share (see their guidelines), but generally speaking the amount you are personally responsible for is $300 - but even that can be eliminated if you receive discounts on your medical bills.

Personal example: in 2015, between my wife's pregnancy/childbirth and my emergency appendectomy, we had about $50,000 in medical bills. After getting self-pay discounts of nearly $15,000, the remainder (about $35,000) was shared to the penny by fellow Samaritan Ministries members. We weren't out anything - no $5,000 deductible, nothing.

  • Biblical

Samaritan Ministries applies Biblical principles in every aspect of the ministry. From membership qualifications and lifestyles, to ministry accountability, to what health needs are eligible to share (i.e. no paying for abortions, etc).

  • Personal touch

Samaritan Ministries has a very personal touch. Those cards in the picture above? That represents about 55 families across the country who paid my medical bills when I had an emergency appendectomy. Members send their monthly shares directly to members with medical needs, and are encouraged to send cards or notes and to pray for the member in need. When did your insurance company ever do that?!

  • Exempt from penalty/tax

Although not considered "insurance", Samaritan Ministries (and a few other health-care sharing ministries) meets ObamaCare's requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty/tax. HCSMs were specifically exempted in the Affordable Care Act.

  • Physician flexibility

Rather than being tied into specific networks,Samaritan Ministries members have the flexibility to go to whichever physicians and facilities they desire. As a self-pay patient, you enable the doctor's office to cut out paperwork and insurance hassles, and generally are able to receive significant discounts.

In our three years as members of Samaritan Ministries, we have submitted two medical needs. Read about our first one here, and see how needs are submitted. Read about our second one here, and find out about bill reductions and self-pay discounts. You can also read other posts I've done about Samaritan Ministries here and here.

More Information

Currently, there are over 50,000 families (more than 165,000 individuals) participating in Samaritan Ministries. For more information about why they do, visit SamaritanMinistries.org. You can view videos, testimonials, Frequently Asked Questions, the Guidelines, the Application Form, and much more.

If you are interested in joining, I'd be more than happy to talk with you. You can call me at (918) 869-6000, or email me at JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com. When a member refers someone who then becomes a member, Samaritan Ministries gives the referring member a credit.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry CHRISTmas!

Have a very merry CHRISTmas!

The account of the birth of Jesus Christ, from Luke 2:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

I hope that you have a very happy and safe holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Irony: "Motion to Waive All Applicable Budgetary Discipline"

In case you hadn't heard, Congress passed a $1,100,000,000,000 budget deal today. In the Senate, the last roll call vote before final passage was a "Motion to Waive All Applicable Budgetary Discipline".

Oh, you don't say. It's almost funny, in a pathetic, sad sort of way. Drowning in nearly $18,791,750,000,000.00 of national debt, I'd say our government long ago abandoned any pretense of "budgetary discipline"...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cruz announces Oklahoma visit details

HOUSTON, Texas – Following the CNN debate in Las Vegas, presidential candidate Ted Cruz will participate in a fly-around tour of seven March 1 Super Tuesday states. The “Take-Off With Ted Cruz Country Christmas Tour” will feature twelve rallies in twelve cities in one week.

“Our ‘Take Off with Ted’ barnstorming of the March 1st states will fortify our national organization and position us to win on Super Tuesday," said Cruz Communications Director Rick Tyler.  "We’ve always believed that the GOP primary calendar gives Cruz an early advantage so we have spent significant time in those states and have built an army of conservative volunteers to get out the vote just like the ones we have unleashed in the first four early states."

Thursday, December 17
10:00 a.m. - Las Vegas, NV
6:00 p.m. - St. Paul, MN

Friday, December 18
11:30 a.m. - Mechanicsville, VA (Richmond) (free tickets here)
4:30 p.m. - Kennesaw, GA (Atlanta) (free tickets here)

Saturday, December 19
 10:00 a.m. - Bloomingdale, GA (Savannah) (free tickets here)
2:30 p.m. - Daphne, AL (Mobile) (free tickets here)

Sunday, December 20
 1:30 p.m. - Trussville, AL (Birmingham) (free tickets here)

Tuesday, December 22
10:00 a.m. - Knoxville, TN (free tickets here)
1:30 p.m. – Nashville, TN (free tickets here)
7:00 p.m. – North Little Rock, AR (free tickets here)

Wednesday, December 23
9:00 a.m. – Tulsa, OK (free tickets here)
Oral Roberts University
7777 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74136 
1:30 p.m. – Oklahoma City, OK (free tickets here)
Oklahoma City Community College
7777 South May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73159

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ted Cruz to campaign in Oklahoma on December 23rd

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz will be making two stops in Oklahoma on December 23rd. During his Cruz Country Christmas Tour, the Texas Senator will hold events in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. More details will be released in the coming days.

The most recent Oklahoma poll, taken November 12th-15th, showed Donald Trump leading the field with 27.1%, and Cruz in second at 18.3%. Closely following were candidates Ben Carson (17.5%) and Marco Rubio (16.3%).

Oklahoma's presidential primary is on March 1st, and 40 delegates will be up for grabs. Only four states hold caucuses or primaries before Oklahoma: Iowa (Feb. 1st), New Hampshire (Feb. 8th), South Carolina (Feb. 20th), and Nevada (Feb. 23rd). On March 1st, Oklahoma joins 11 other states in voting (AK, AL, AR, GA, MA, MN, TN, TX, VA, VT, WY).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

12 Republicans, 7 Democrats file for Oklahoma's presidential primary

The filing period for Oklahoma's March 1st, 2016 Presidential Preferential Primary was held Monday through Wednesday; a total of 19 candidates filed under the two main parties recognized in Oklahoma (the third, 'Americans Elect', has a grand total of nine (9) voters statewide).

Here are the candidates that will be on the primary ballot:

Democratic Primary Candidates

  • Hillary Clinton (NY)
  • Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente (CA)
  • Keith Judd (TX)
  • Star Locke (TX)
  • Martin J. O'Malley (MD)
  • Bernie Sanders (VT)
  • Micahel A. Steinberg (FL)

Republican Primary Candidates

  • Jeb Bush (FL)
  • Ben Carson (FL)
  • Chris Christie (NJ)
  • Ted Cruz (TX)
  • Carly Fiorina (VA)
  • Lindsey Graham (SC)
  • Mike Huckabee (FL)
  • John R. Kasich (OH)
  • Rand Paul (KY)
  • Marco Rubio (FL)
  • Rick Santorum (VA)
  • Donald J. Trump (NY)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Updated: Conservative Index scores for Oklahoma presidential endorsers

(click image to view larger)

Following some recent presidential endorsement releases, here are the updated Conservative Index scores for Oklahoma state legislators who have picked sides in the 2016 presidential race.

Marco Rubio leads with 17 endorsers, with a Conservative Index average of 67.5. Ted Cruz has 13 endorsers, with an average score of 81.3. Jeb Bush has 10 endorsers, with an average of 62.2. Donald Trump has 4 endorsers, averaging 67.8. Carly Fiorina has 1 endorser with a score of 90. No other candidate (that I am aware of) has a public endorsement from an Oklahoma state legislator.

For comparison, the average Conservative Index score for House Republicans is 72.5, while the Senate Republicans average is 70.0 (combined legislative average is 71.6).

Looking at House endorser averages, only Ted Cruz is above the average (82.9 vs 72.5). Cruz and Fiorina are the only ones with higher Senate averages as well (76.0 and 90.0 vs 70.0), although Fiorina only has one endorser. Cruz is also the only one with a higher combined average (81.3 vs 71.6).

Monday, December 07, 2015

Music Monday: Christmas Fantasy

This week's Music Monday is Christmas Fantasy by Dan Goeller. When I attended Tulsa Bible Church and played in the church orchestra, this was my runaway favorite piece of music that we played. Goeller writes and arranges fabulous, high-caliber church orchestra pieces. This piece, as well as other numbers by Goeller, was challenging yet thrilling to perform.


Friday, December 04, 2015

Fair opposes proposal to expand Rainy Day Fund

by Steve Fair

Oklahoma state government has a Rainy Day Fund, aka the Constitutional Reserve Fund.  It works as a savings account for government so in the case of an emergency, it can be tapped.  Any revenue over 95% of revenue estimates collected in a year is deposited into the Rainy Day Fund.  The state constitution caps the amount to be deposited to the fund at 15% of the General Revenue Fund estimate provided by the State Board of Equalization for the prior fiscal year.

     The legislature can tap the Rainy Day Fund if the state’s official estimate shows that the following fiscal year will bring in less than the current year.  3/8 of the Rainy Day Fund can be used for supplemental funding.  Another ¼ of the fund can be tapped if the governor and ¾ of the legislature declare a state of emergency.

      Twice in the past eleven years, Oklahoma voters have changed how the fund works.  In 2004, the amount of money the legislature could use was reduced from 1/2 to 3/8.  The change passed by a 2 to 1 margin.  In 2010, Oklahoma voters narrowly passed a proposal to increase the amount that was to be deposited to the fund- from 10 to 15%.  The measure passed by a mere 20,000 votes statewide. Now it appears voters will be asked to vote on changes to the Rainy Day Fund in November 2016.

     State Representative Jon Echols, (R-OKC), says he intends to file legislation in the upcoming legislative session allowing voters to amend the Constitution to both increase the cap – but not lower it – and allow the Legislature to appropriate directly to the fund.

     “The idea that we should cap how much money the state can save is, frankly, ridiculous.  Not only is there a cap on how much we can save, there is also legitimate doubt among House staff as to whether the Legislature has the authority to make direct appropriations into the Rainy Day Fund. Neither of those restrictions make any sense. We had a $600 million budget gap last year, and we are now looking at up to $1 billion less this year to appropriate. Our current approach is shortsighted and bizarre. Taxpayers expect us to be prudent and develop a long-term approach to state spending. This is not the way a citizen would run his or her family and it certainly isn’t the way we should run our state,” Echols said.

     Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger says he would like to create another fund, similar to the Rainy Day Fund that would allow state government to sock away some funds for down budget years.  In an editorial in The Oklahoman, Doerflinger said, “I think there are tools we should put in place, maybe a separate fund that would help equalize these types of downturns in the energy sector.  It might cause some smoothing or leveling of the pain that occurs if you were to see something this dramatic in the future.”

     First, Echols has a point.  Why restrict how much money the legislature can put in savings?  After all, saving money is better than government spending it.  That sounds pretty good, but government is not a family or a business.  When government socks away tax dollars into a savings account that means they are overcharging taxpayers.  If there is a surplus, give it back to the people it belongs to- the taxpayers. Government, at all levels should operate efficiently, but not be banking up a surplus- in good or bad times.

     Second, the legislature taps the Rainy Day Fund virtually every year.  It doesn’t even have to cloud up before they hit the savings account.  That is why voters overwhelmingly voted to reduce how much the lawmakers could tap.  The fund was set up for emergencies, but every year there is an emergency.

     Third, the legislature should consider fundamentally changing the budgeting process and force agencies to justify every penny of tax dollar they are appropriated.  They should also commit to identifying and eliminating waste.  They need to force government agencies to consolidate.  Stabilization should never be the goal of government.  It should be to become more efficient and reduce in size and scope.

    Currently the Rainy Day Fund has a balance of $382 million.  With an expected budget shortfall of $1 billion or more, it’s a sure bet the legislature will be tapping the fund.  Until Oklahoma government is truly right-sized and streamlined, giving Oklahoma government more money- whether in a savings account or not- is inconsistent with good government. Government should be saving money by cutting operational costs, not by efficient management of more money.

Steve Fair is a longtime conservative activist, and current National Committeeman for the Oklahoma Republican Party. He blogs at Fair and Biased.

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I am in full agreement with Steve Fair on this issue. Rather than relying on tapping the Rainy Day Fund every year, state leaders should actually cut government. Excess taxpayer dollars should be returned to the people, not stockpiled in an excuse for not making tough budget decisions.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

3 Oklahoma legislators endorse Rubio, bring total to 17

More OK Legislators Endorse Rubio, Bring Total to 17

The Marco Rubio for President Oklahoma State Chairman, Senator David Holt, has announced the names of three more Republican legislators who are endorsing U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s candidacy to become the next President of the United States.   The three join the 14 other Oklahoma legislators who have already endorsed Rubio, as well as U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin.

The three new endorsers are Senator Frank Simpson (R - Springer), Rep. Dan Kirby (R - Tulsa), and Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R - Moore).

“While the Democrats are stuck in the 1990s, Marco Rubio is prepared and ready to lead us into the 21st Century,” said Senator Simpson.

“Senator Marco Rubio is the most effective candidate for President, that is, if we really want to win, and not just make some political statement with another candidate,” said Rep. Wesselhoft.

Said Rep. Kirby, “Marco Rubio has the intelligence, experience and creative new ideas that are needed to move America forward.  He is a leader and will be an excellent President."

The full list of 17 Oklahoma legislators and one Oklahoma Congressman who have endorsed Senator Rubio is as follows:

  • Senator David Holt (R - Oklahoma City), State Chairman
  • U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin (R)
  • Senator Kim David (R - Porter)
  • Senator Eddie Fields (R - Wynona)
  • Senator Jack Fry (R - Midwest City)
  • Senator A.J. Griffin (R - Guthrie)
  • Senator Wayne Shaw (R - Grove)
  • Senator Frank Simpson (R - Springer)
  • Senator Jason Smalley (R - Stroud)
  • Senator Roger Thompson (R - Okemah)
  • Rep. Josh Cockroft (R - Wanette)
  • Rep. Randy Grau (R - Edmond)
  • Rep. Katie Henke (R - Tulsa)
  • Rep. Dan Kirby (R - Tulsa)
  • Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R - Tulsa)
  • Rep. Leslie Osborn (R - Mustang)
  • Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R - Moore)
  • Rep. Harold Wright (R - Weatherford)

With today’s announcement, Senator Rubio still has more publicly announced endorsements from Oklahoma legislators than any other candidate for President.

Senator Rubio will be a candidate in the March 1st, 2016 Oklahoma Republican presidential primary.  Senator Rubio most recently visited the state this Fall, when he paid his respects at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and delivered a speech outlining his energy plan.  Oklahoma supporters of Senator Rubio’s campaign can receive updates from Senator Rubio's campaign in Oklahoma by following @TeamMarcoOK on Twitter or liking TeamMarcoOK on Facebook.