Crowdfunding, medical bankruptcy…..or Improved Medicare for All?

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Today while surfing my Facebook page, I spotted a fundraising appeal for Gilley, a lobsterman on Swans Island. “On March 31 my kids grandfather fell over board into freezing cold water temperatures, he had to be life flighted from Swans Island after being paddled multiple times by EMT services. He has been on a rollercoaster of survival ever since…He lost his wife back in February and needs as much support as we can raise to help him financially until he can get back on his feet. He has no medical insurance. Thank you for anything you can donate.”   https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-gilley

In the past year, at least two other friends of mine facing serious medical illness and associated financial hardship have turned to crowdfunding for help. Ironically, one of them was a professional fundraiser, who was “young and healthy” but without medical insurance.  https://www.gofundme.com/helpbfunk

My friend Simonne, who is now into Round 3 of major medical expenses, has twice turned to crowdfunding for assistance. She has insurance, but with a significant deductible. She drained her savings a few years ago when her husband fell ill with a neurological condition.  Last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through surgery and radiation. Just this month, she was diagnosed with another cancer. That’s 3 years of deductibles, co-pays, loss of work income and travel expenses to Boston, not to mention the stress of dealing with a life-threatening illness.   https://www.gofundme.com/simonnes-breast-cancer-fund

Gilley’s story reminded me of a spate of articles on crowdfunding that hit the news last year. Here’s a few links:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/crowdfunding-for-medical-expenses-2017-6?r=US&IR=T
  2. https://consumerist.com/2017/06/13/3-things-you-should-know-about-crowdfunding-medical-bills/
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-12/america-s-health-care-crisis-is-a-gold-mine-for-crowdfunding
  4. http://pnhp.org/blog/2017/06/13/health-care-is-a-gold-mine-for-crowdfunding/

Here in New Zealand, most of the costs of healthcare are covered by New Zealand’s single payer system, including transportation and housing if a service is not available locally.   Still, crowdfunding is sometimes used during times of medical illness. But the money is more often used for things like family support or to cover reduced income or to travel to other countries for alternative treatments….or to help a family fulfill their loved one’s last wishes.

Key facts and observations:

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To quote my favorite healthcare blogger Dr. Don McCanne: “We can surely find a better way to fund health care, like maybe an improved Medicare that covered everyone. Depending on an industry that capitalizes on charity certainly is not the way to go.”

PS: Neither Gilley nor Simonne have reached their fundraising goals. If you are feeling charitable and could spare some change, please help.

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