The head of the crowdfunding site GoFundMe told CBS News that one-third of all its campaigns are healthcare-related.
GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told the outlet that 250,000 campaigns to raise money for health care costs have been started on the site since its launch in 2010.
"When we started in 2010, it wasn't purposefully set up and built to be a substitute for medical insurance," Solomon told CBS. "We weren't ever set up to be a health care company and we still are not. But over time, people have used GoFundMe for the most important issues they are faced with."
Solomon said that GoFundMe has raised $650 million for medical costs, a full third of all of the donations made on the site.
"Medical-related fundraisers tend to be the largest category in any market," Solomon said. "Insurance may cover the medical payment side of it, but it doesn't cover you being out of work or needing transportation or lodging away from your home. So it is still a very big category in every market."
"We have turned into this 'take action' button, whether it's related to the government shutdown or a family member who can't pay their medical bills — people want to help, and we actually solve big problems," Solomon said. "While we didn't set out to be one of the most influential health care companies in the world, if we have to serve that purpose, I feel very proud about that."
GoFundMe becomes alternative to unaffordable health insurance:
The main reason people are turning to GoFundMe is that they lack insurance coverage, likely because costs are three times higher on average in the United States than other nations.
“The United States healthcare system continues to run amok – costs are three times the average of other nations and except for serious diseases or bad accidents, the care we receive is subpar compared to most other countries,” wrote Forbes’ Carolyn McClanahan. “To add insult to injury, we use more healthcare than any other nation because the incentives are aligned to deliver the most care, not the best care. This leaves people with tremendous healthcare bills they often can’t afford.”
“People are hit financially in a number of areas when they develop a serious illness,” she added. “More and more, yearly deductibles are in the $10,000 range. If a person has the misfortune of not getting care through their insurance company’s network, the cost can be significantly higher. The loss of employment also hits hard for both the patient and any caregivers. And the incidental expenses add up – wound care supplies, transportation, and special diets are just a few. These costs can wipe out any savings. People often skimp on the appropriate care to save money or because they don’t have the resources in the first place.”
Many GoFundMe’s started by people who have insurance:
As McClanahan noted, the deductibles are sky high on many plans so even those with insurance are unable to cover their medical costs.
Sara Collins, an economist at the Commonwealth Fund who studies American health care, conducted a study that found that half of Americans said they don’t have the ability to pay an unexpected $1000 medical bill within 30 days.
"We find that underinsured people are nearly as likely to report problems paying their medical bills as people who don't have any insurance," she told NPR. "And they also report not getting needed health care at rates that are nearly as high as those who are uninsured."
“It really should be a deep concern for policymakers and providers,” she added.