A recent study published in JAMA Neurology reveals a startling increase in medical crowdfunding for neurologic disorders, with an average annual growth rate of 44% over the course of nine years. Contrary to popular belief, approximately 85% of these campaigns were initiated by individuals who already had health insurance. This data challenges the perception that medical crowdfunding is primarily used to cover out-of-pocket expenses. The rise in medical crowdfunding highlights the escalating costs of healthcare services and treatments, which affect both the insured and uninsured.
Online crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe have made it easier than ever to raise funds for medical expenses. The accessibility and potential to reach a wide audience make medical crowdfunding an attractive option for individuals seeking financial relief. However, a joint investigation by KFF Health News, NPR, and CBS discovered that over 100 million people in the United States struggle to pay their healthcare costs. This staggering number of individuals facing medical debt might explain the increasing reliance on medical crowdfunding as a means to avoid bankruptcy.
While medical crowdfunding may seem like a form of financial security for those in need, the reality is quite different. Only 10% of campaigns actually succeed, making the impact of medical crowdfunding on reducing medical-debt-induced bankruptcies negligible. Furthermore, individuals who declare bankruptcy after failed campaigns not only face financial consequences but also compromise their privacy. Medical crowdfunding often requires campaigners to divulge personal health information in order to create emotionally resonant narratives that can attract donors. This practice goes against the principles of patient confidentiality and privacy rights.
In the context of pediatric neurology, medical crowdfunding becomes even more ethically complex. Expensive treatments such as the $2.1 million gene therapy drug Zolgensma put parents in a desperate situation, leading them to share intimate details of their children’s medical conditions in crowdfunding campaigns. Without alternative sources of funding or improved healthcare systems, medical crowdfunding appears as the only viable option for these families. Unfortunately, this unregulated practice also opens the door to misinformation, as campaigns can downplay risks or overstate efficacy, misleading potential donors.
Furthermore, medical crowdfunding is not an equal opportunity practice. The study reveals that race and gender play a role in campaign outcomes, with Black individuals and women raising less money compared to White men. This disparity further widens social inequalities in the healthcare system, exacerbating existing problems.
While medical crowdfunding can provide temporary relief for out-of-pocket expenses, it is not a sustainable solution. There is a need to involve healthcare providers to reduce reliance on medical crowdfunding and find alternative ways to address financial burdens, such as implementing improved reimbursement processes or expanded insurance coverage for costly treatments. The goal should be to curb the pitfalls and shortcomings of medical crowdfunding in order to create a more equitable healthcare system for all.
– Medscape: www.medscape.com
– PatientEngagementHIT: www.patientengagementhit.com
– STAT News: www.statnews.com