Almost half of the money raised on crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and YouCaring is going toward medical expenses.
Medical campaigns make up $930 million of the $2 billion raised on GoFundMe, according to NerdWallet. Almost half of the $800 million raised on YouCaring, another crowdfunding platform, went towards medical expenses, Bloomberg reports.
The reasons people cite for turning to crowdfunding vary from trying to fill in gaps in Medicare to hitting deductibles ( the amount of money a person needs to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in) to just generally hoping to make ends meet.
Under the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare replacement bill that passed the House in May, 23 million more Americans could become uninsured by 2026, leaving millions more on the hook to pay for medical expenses out of pocket.
“Whether it’s Obamacare or Trumpcare, the weight of health-care costs on consumers will only increase,” GoFundMe CEO Dan Saper told Bloomberg.
Covering routine health expenses
Crowdfunding seems to be particularly popular for covering prescription drug costs. While crowdfunding is mainly used for emergency medical costs, many still turn to sites like GoFundMe for costly prescriptions, including insulin, a life-saving diabetes medication that’s seen its list prices increase an average of 300% over the last decade.
A search for “prescription” on GoFundMe bought up more than 14,700 results of past and current funding pages. For insulin – both for insulin pumps and the medication itself – there were more than 6,300 results.
Lonnie Cucinitti, a 76-year-old Texan who launched a GoFundMe page in January, gets choked up when he thinks about all the people in his life who chipped in when he needed money for his four prescriptions.
He shared the fundraiser on his Facebook page, and he started receiving small donations, a few from people he didn’t know. Most came from friends he had made while he was in the Navy, whom he’d met more than 50 years ago.
“It makes me very emotional to think that people I met 50 years ago would care enough to send $50,” he told Business Insider.
For Cucinitti, who lives on $1,024 a month, the $120 he needed to cover three months worth of pills was more than he could afford. He said he’s noticed his prescriptions have “gone up like crazy,” which is when he started shopping around for the cheapest prices. He was paying roughly $100 more for his prescriptions before switching to Kroger grocery stores.
The consequences of crowdfunding medical expenses
In a March article in the Journal of American Medical Association that looked at crowdfunding for medical expenses, the authors noted there’s little regulation about how crowdfunding is reported. That means there’s not much data on how frequently people use it to pay for medical expenses. The authors called research based on this data “long overdue.”
“The rise of medical crowdfunding carries the promise of more efficiently matching potential donors with unmet needs in ways that may increase overall giving, mirroring emerging technologies in other industries such as ride-hailing and retail services that aim to more efficiently match supply and demand,” the authors wrote.
At the same time, there are ethical and legal questions that may come up, especially if people are raising money for experimental treatments. The article also brought up concerns about how doctors should interact with the sites if their patients are using them.
For Cucinitti, the process was relatively smooth sailing. He raised $140, which was enough to cover the prescriptions after GoFundMe took out its percentage. Afterward, his brother chipped in another $200, which should cover his prescriptions for a while. Cucinitti said he plans on using GoFundMe to raise funds again next year.