Respecting Cultural Differences: Alternatives for the Amish Community to Combat Health Care Costs

Christopher B. Sherman
University of Tampa

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Abstract: Medical bills represent a growing concern for the Amish population. Their unique culture compels them to decline any government funding for medical care and deters them from purchasing insurance. Like any one, individuals in the Amish community occasionally incur health care issues. Yet, unlike the general population, the Amish are far more likely to encounter a particular disease called Crigler-Najjar Syndrome. Undoubtedly, this situation results in significant difficulties for the Amish to pay the extraordinary out-of-pocket costs associated with medical bills, given their limited monetary funds. Solutions to this seemingly impossible situation include reduced monthly payments, lump sum alternatives, food services, and trading commodities.

Introduction Seventy-one-year-old Christian Esh, in accordance with Amish values, does not have medical insurance, and he “owes about $400,000 in bank loans he’s taken out on his farm for medical bills” (Anand, 2008). Esh, being elderly and severely disabled, holds no savings nor does he have any means to acquire the income to pay the monthly loan payments. He faces constant inquiries and harassment from debt collectors. Esh’s situation represents a growing phenomenon among the Amish community. This paper provides background on the Amish culture, details the growing problem of their inability to pay health care costs, and presents four solutions, including reduced monthly payments, lump sum alternatives, food services, and commodity trading.

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