8 Million Americans Have Been Forced to Start Crowdfunding Campaigns to Cover Medical Costs : Survey

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An estimated eight million people in the U.S. have started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for their own or a member of their household’s healthcare costs, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The poll, which was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, also found that in addition to the millions who have launched crowdfunding efforts for themselves or a member of their household, at least 12 million more Americans have started crowdfunding efforts for someone else.

What is Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the process by which individuals may raise funds from a large amount of people, often through sites such as GoFundMe.

Fifty million Americans have donated to such fundraising efforts, the survey showed.

“As annual out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, more Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills, and millions are turning to their social networks and crowdfunding sites to fund medical treatments and pay medical bills,” Mollie Hertel, senior research scientist at NORC, said in a statement. “Although about a quarter of Americans report having sponsored or donated to a campaign, this share is likely to increase in the face of rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

Americans who donated to a crowdfunding campaign were most likely to give money to a friend; however, a large percentage donated to someone they did not know personally.

Forty-six percent of respondents who donated did so to a friend’s crowdfunding campaign. Sixty-one percent donated to the campaign of either a relative, co-worker, or acquaintance (24 percent, 14 percent, and 23 percent, respectively). More than one-third (35 percent) donated to someone they did not know personally.

8 Million Americans Have Been Forced to Start Crowdfunding Campaigns to Cover Medical Costs, Survey Shows

Almost two-thirds of Americans think that the government should bear a great deal or a lot of responsibility for providing health care to people who need free or reduced-cost medical care—more so than hospitals, doctors, or charities.

Although more people gained insurance coverage with the Affordable Care Act, crowdfunding for health care expenses is becoming more common because Americans still cannot afford their out-of-pocket costs—deductibles, copays, or coinsurance—their coverage notwithstanding. Medical bills remain the number one reason Americans file for personal bankruptcy, according to a 2019 City University of New York-Harvard study. When asked who is responsible for paying for care for those who cannot afford it, a majority of Americans (60 percent) believe the government should as opposed to health care providers, charities, and family and friends.

8 Million Americans Have Been Forced to Start Crowdfunding Campaigns to Cover Medical Costs, Survey Shows

“It is clear that Americans want government and providers to work together to provide charity or assistance when needed,” said Susan Cahn, senior research scientist at NORC.” Fewer Americans think that family, friends, or even strangers should shoulder the costs of care that patients and their families cannot afford. Furthermore, although we estimated that, to date, 8 percent of Americans have started crowdfunding campaigns, 26 percent believe friends or family should not assume much or any responsibility for unaffordable medical care costs.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders questions

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted in response to the survey that “no one should have to beg for money to get the health care they need in the richest country on Earth.”

“Enough is enough,” Sanders wrote. “Medicare for All now.”

The survey found that 60% of Americans believe the government—not charities, family members, or friends—has a “great deal or a lot of responsibility” to provide “help when medical care is unaffordable.”

“I have to presume that most crowdfunding campaigns fail,” tweeted single-payer advocate Tim Faust. “So here’s the future of American healthcare: costs keep going up; they keep being pushed onto patients by insurers; whether you drown in medical debt is a function of luck, popularity, and how much sympathy you can garner.”

As she introduced the House version of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 last February, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) lamented that “GoFundMe is becoming one of the most popular insurance plans in the country.”

“It comes down to a profit-making motive that is baked into a system—a system that puts profits over patients,” said Jayapal.

She tweeted,

“No American should have to choose between paying for their insulin or their rent. No American should have to rely on a crowdfunding campaign to pay for medical bills. No American should go bankrupt because of an illness.

Health care is a human right. We deserve #MedicareForAll.

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