By Holly Williams
Elm Staff Writer
Turning to crowdfunding from internet strangers before being pushed to bankruptcy by medical bills seems more like a dystopian vision than anything else, but in the United States, the only developed western nation without universal healthcare, it’s all too real.
GoFundMe’s CEO Rob Solomon reported that one in three campaigns on the site are for medical costs, racking up more than $650 million a year. GoFundMe is not the only crowdfunding site that has unintentionally become a form of relief for mounting medical costs, either.
Even the insured face bills from copays and deductibles, not to mention the travel or lodging costs normally incurred from extended hospital stays. There are even non- pro ts explicitly made for medical debt: RIP Medical Debt buys and forgives debt, and Healthwell gives assistance to covering co-pays or premiums.
Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe or YouCaring, at their inception, were not de- signed to help shoulder financial burdens. GoFundMe was initially meant for wedding and holiday funds, but it now calls itself “ The World’s No.1 Site for Medical Illness & Healing Fundraising.”
Charity is not a x-all problem for our healthcare de ciency. Nine out of 10 of these campaigns do not meet their goals. A man named Shane Patrick Boyle died in Arkansas in 2017 after he was $50 short of his GoFund- Me campaign goal for insulin.
Users of the site still suffer from the biases and prejudices of everyday life. Illnesses that seem to be brought on from “bad choices” and don’t have one solution — such asaddictionn or heart disease — garner less sympathy. e same goes for website users that fall outside of certain demographics. It’s much more difficult to fundraise for someone who isn’t a child or elderly, or who doesn’t have the resources to launch a social media campaign.
Why, exactly, have we gotten to the point where medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, and Americans have to rely on the kindness of strangers rather than the help of their government to survive?
GoFundMe now serves as a largely imperfect band-aid for a systemic problem.
A Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans agree that the healthcare system is in “crisis.” The U.S. already spends more on healthcare per person than other industrialized countries. e average payout for healthcare in 2016 was $10,348 per person, over twice the amount paid by other wealthy countries with universal healthcare. Despite the money we pour into our healthcare, the levels of efficiency and breadth of coverage found in places such as France or Japan continue to elude us.
While it’s commonly accepted our health- care system is in dire need of revamping, what form that change should take has become a bitter partisan debate. e Republican Congress in 2017 tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, while Medicare-for-all has become a crucial part of the Democratic platform.
Regardless of the stance on what that solution could be, it’s undeniable that we have poured endless resources and money into our for-pro t healthcare system for years. It has brought us to this current state where 30 mil- lion people are still uninsured.
Illness is awful enough. e costs associated with it should not rob people of their homes and livelihood. GoFundMe is a testa- ment to the good in humanity, but in a better society, it would operate how it was intended: to help with weddings and vacations. No one should have to beg for money to stay alive or to alleviate debt after a medical emergency. Our government should be more willing to help us than random strangers are.