Crowdfunding Health Care: It Treats The Symptom, Not The Problem

Created: 17 January, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

Need some money? Why not ask the internet? Crowdfunding, a concept that could not exist without now-popular platforms like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo, has replaced traditional fundraising by allowing donors to contribute just by clicking a button.

In America’s free-market economy, it’s an innovative way for those with ideas to bring projects that might otherwise go unnoticed to market.

It would be ignorant to think that such a powerful technique would only see use in business applications. Sure enough, many Americans who can’t afford health care are turning to crowdfunding sites to help them cover expensive treatments that they would otherwise go without.

But what does that say about the state of our health care system? Are there consequences for this behavior?

Treating the Symptom

While there may not be anything fundamentally wrong with asking for donations, the problem with crowdfunding is that it takes the onus of responsibility off of the American health care system. It is a solution to a problem we shouldn't have, and it's not the best solution.

Crowdfunding is inherently biased. Heartwarming though it may be to see someone receive support from their fellow humans, there are no rules to dictate who can use crowdfunding effectively.

Sites like YouCaring, a fundraising platform aimed specifically at medical needs, make patients accountable for selling their own case as worthy of a stranger’s money.

Sometimes, as with the case of Kati McFarland, who suffers from a rare and difficult-to-treat genetic disorder, the crowd can save the day. After the untimely loss of her father, whose insurance covered Kati’s medical needs, a campaign on YouCaring has been the difference between Kati’s health and bankruptcy, which could eventually lead to her death.

Kati is the victim of a fate she had no control over. She is also young and familiar with technology. But what about the medical needs of those whose cases are different from Kati’s? Could a heroin addict find funding on YouCaring?

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Dear Uncle Sam, Please Send Money

The answer to that question is impossible to know for sure, but you can understand how a drug addict suffering from self-imposed misfortune would have difficulty appealing to the masses for help.

What is overlooked is the fact that we shouldn't need to borrow so much from our neighbors to mitigate outrageous health care costs — it's an issue that is almost unique to the United States among developed countries.

Obamacare may have made more headlines in 2017 for being the target of the Trump administration’s verbal and legislative attacks, but it is an imperfect system made worse by Trump chopping at its foundations.

Other nations take a fundamentally different view on health care in that they believe it to be a right. The United States does not approach the issue from this perspective.

Our system seems to assert that it’s better to let people die than find a responsible way to share access to health care in continuing to rely on a fractured free-market system.

Crowdfunding exposes that uncomfortable truth for what it is. Yes, there is some good done along the way, but it's a depressing thing to consider that strangers on the internet should determine a person's quality of life.

Finding new methods like crowdfunding, rather than demanding better, more affordable care only adds to the challenge we face in reforming our health care system.

The Needed Push for Single-Payer

Ultimately, online crowdfunding platforms increase exposure and remove obstacles to make donation simpler, but taking donations isn't a new paradigm.

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For those with a story to tell, it might work, but don't expect to see the wealthy suddenly warm up to the idea of regularly donating to just anyone.

Americans can’t be expected to start re-directing even more of their money to paying for other people’s health care when we already devote one-fifth of our income to personal health care.

Yes, it's a beautiful thing to see when we can help one another, but the fact that people even have to resort to this should be a wake-up call.

There is such thing as a system that uses funding from all taxpayers to fund medical access for everyone. Socialized, single-payer health care can work in the United States — this is not what it looks like.

The reality of such a system is that the differed costs would be much less, and access to care would increase significantly for the average American.

Are we ready to make a change, or is the evidence not clear enough yet?

Photo Credit: Andy Dean Photography / shutterstock.com

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