“Millions of Americans are contributing to crowdfunding platforms to help pay for rising healthcare expenses, researchers found.
One in five people reported contributing to crowdfunding campaigns to cover medical bills and treatments, according to a survey of just over 1,000 people released by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
NORC researchers estimated that 8 million people in the U.S. have started a crowdfunding campaign for themselves or someone in their household, and 12 million started one for someone else.
“These results are very noteworthy in that they give us a sense of the size and scope of this phenomenon,” said Nora Kenworthy, PhD, of the University of Washington in Bothell, who was not involved in the survey. “It’s larger than many of us had expected, though we knew this phenomenon was large, and growing.”
Ford Vox, MD, of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, who also was not involved in the survey but has published on medical crowdfunding, agreed that the use of crowdfunding for medical care has grown rapidly. “This seems to be a new fixture of the healthcare economy,” Vox said in an interview with MedPage Today.
While Vox said that medical crowdfunding is generally a good thing, he warned about “putting a Band-Aid on major issues with our healthcare system.” He said it has become normalized that Americans struggle to pay for their healthcare, but that gaps in the system should be faced head-on: “We have to think about the areas where the Band-Aid doesn’t hold.”
Many Americans have turned to crowdfunding to pay for rising out-of-pocket medical costs, using websites such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe to raise small amounts of money from a large number of donors. GoFundMe describes itself as “the leader in online medical fundraising.” The platform hosts more than 250,000 medical campaigns per year, and raises over $650 million annually.
Susan Cahn, PhD, a senior research scientist at NORC, said her team was interested in the impact of the Affordable Care Act on access to care, affordability, and charity, and conducted the survey to assess the use of crowdfunding to offset rising medical costs. Researchers surveyed 1,020 English-speaking adults online and by phone to assess this question.
Cahn and her team used AmeriSpeak, a probability-based survey panel designed to represent the entire U.S. household population. In this study, more than 60% of the survey respondents were non-Hispanic white, and about one-third had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Women made up 52% of the cohort. A majority of participants reported living in the south, and 80% resided in a metropolitan area.
Among those who reported donating to a medical crowdfunding campaign, 46% donated to a friend, 24% to a relative, and 35% to someone they did not know personally.
In addition, respondents were also asked what institutions or individuals should be responsible for providing medical care to those who cannot afford it. A majority of respondents said that hospitals or clinics, charities, or the government should bear the responsibility of providing free or reduced-cost medical care to those who cannot afford it.
“We knew that there was anecdotal evidence that this phenomenon was increasing,” Cahn told MedPage Today. “Our results show that personal charity continues to play an important role.” “
Crowdfunding a ‘Band-Aid’ for Rising Healthcare Costs? Special Report, MedPage Today, Amanda D’Ambrosio, Staff Writer, February 25, 2020