Mutual Aid Projects

Ithaca Health Fund
Locally Controlled Non-profit Mutual Health Security

We’ve created a local non-profit fund to pool our money to reduce our health costs, to support each other, and to make healthy living easier.

We’re building our own safety net, much as the Amish do. Their communities have created medical "assurance plans." Some Amish gather quarterly to total their community’s doctor and hospital bills, where they calculate each family’s contributions according to ability to pay.

The U.S. health "industry" is the nation’s largest: over $1 trillion ($1 million million) yearly, or 14% of GDP, is fed to a system more organized for profitability than public need. Medical costs have been driven beyond our reach by medical specialization and technology, by the greed of insurance and drug companies, by bureaucratization, and by lawsuits that rise from consumer frustration.

Therefore our Fund proceeds systematically to make preventive and innovative health care more affordable, and to recapture health insurance premiums for local health purposes. The Fund is governed by a local board of directors (representing different health sectors) elected by Fund members. They adjust Health Fund policies to maximize immediate member benefits, while retaining enough reserves to build nonprofit clinics.

Compensation through the Ithaca Health Fund takes two forms.

First, discounts for services and goods: especially those services least covered by conventional insurers but which are preferred by area residents. And we’re emphasizing preventive care, to reduce our need for costly acute care.

With a properly balanced discount system, benefitting all participants in a mutually satisfying way, we create general local price reductions and thus increase discretionary income. Those health providers who give discounts to Health Fund members themselves receive discounts from an additional list of support businesses.

Secondly, payment for acute care: ambulance rides and broken bones during the first year, then expanding gradually to cover emergency stitches, burns, appendectomies, and so on. We’re able to do this as we explore the supply and demand for payments. Expanding year by year with the good will of the community, the fund holds not only membership fees, but tax-deductible donations and bequests.

The plan moreover includes flexible payment options — not merely dollars, but also community service, home visit credits, barter and HOURS. These are more fully described on the web site.

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