By Margaret Flowers for Health Over Profit

There seems to be a lack of awareness in the United States about how much our healthcare system is an aberration. We tolerate levels of injustice that would be unthinkable in other advanced nations. Perhaps it is because many of us have never experienced health security – being able to seek medical care without concern about the cost or worry over potential financial ruin. We’ve spent too many years in a system in which families hold bake sales or sell their homes in order to afford lifesaving treatment.

A case in point is a recent article in the Los Angeles Times titled “Patients swamped with medical bills find a solution in crowd-funding”. The article states:

“Indiegogo, which launched in 2008 to help filmmakers raise money online, has seen such a marked uptick in personal fundraising to pay for medical costs that it recently started Indiegogo Life — for personal causes, including healthcare. There are a host of other medical crowd-funding sites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring — both of which also report huge increases in medical fundraising in the last two years.”

“Here’s a way to give to an individual — it might be someone you know or someone you’ve never met. You know what their need is and that your donation will go to meeting their exact need,” says Leonard Lee, head of communications for YouCaring based in San Francisco.” “A lot of people who thought they had adequate insurance coverage find themselves in situations where insurance is not enough,” he says.

The article goes on to describe stories of people who have health insurance but still need to raise tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer treatment or ongoing costs for neurological diseases.

At this point, one might think that the author would make the point that it is our healthcare system that is the problem and how ridiculous it is that this happens in the wealthiest nation in the world, but instead she provides tips on how to create an effective fundraiser and how donors can trust people asking for money.

“We recognize it’s difficult for people to ask for help and talk about a very personal situation,” Lee says. “But those able to talk about what their journey has been through their illness tend to be most effective,” Lee says.

Profiles with pictures — even better, videos — tend to have greater success.

“People want to see the person behind the story and get a sense of who the person is, what their journey has been and who they are donating to,” Lee says.

Earlier this year, Dana Sitar of Taylor Media Corp wrote that 41% of campaigns on crowdfunding sites are for medical bills but that only 11% of them met their goals in 2015. In the truly American way, families have to market themselves so that potential donors will find them worthy of living. And those who don’t have access to the tools to crowdfund suffer and die in silence.

RoseAnn DeMoro, the president of National Nurses United recently tweeted that more than 1.3 million people in the United States are crowdfunding for medical care.

Let’s be clear. This is NOT normal. In no other industrialized nation in the world do people have to beg strangers for money so they or a loved one can live. We are already spending twice as much per person per year on health care as other nations do and they cover everyone, have better health outcomes and have longer life expectancies. In no other industrialized nation do people go bankrupt because of medical illness, but this causes the most personal bankruptcies in the US.

We have the solution to this healthcare crisis that would end this outrage. It’s National Improved Medicare for All as embodied in HR 676: “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.” So far the bill has 94 co-sponsors, the most it has ever had. And we expect a companion bill in the senate by Bernie Sanders in May.

Take action now. Call your member of Congress and tell them to co-sponsor Medicare for All. If they already do, then thank them and ask them to do more. They should be speaking about it publicly, writing about it and holding town halls. Stop this suffering. The time is now for Medicare for all.


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