GoFund my healthcare: is crowdfunding medical bills a permanent solution?


Kernel Opinions Sig

Cameron Luker

When you turn on the local news or read the paper, it’s hard to not be discouraged by all of the bad things happening in the world. Murders, wars, crime, and drugs seem to fill up every slot of a news show with the exception of sports and the weather. I need that feel good personal-interest story that news outlets pepper in every once in a while: firefighters rescue cat from tree, local man picks up litter, local woman knits hats for the homeless. It is vital to show the good that exists in our communities, but we must begin to separate the seemingly good from the deeply disturbing.

On news websites, channels, and papers, stories abound of people with serious diseases relying on crowdfunding for their treatment. The stories aren’t isolated. Nearly $650 million has been raised on GoFundMe for medical treatments, including surgeries, hospital bills and medication.

There are currently 250,000 families using GoFundMe to fundraise for their medical needs. Who wouldn’t be gladdened by the story of a community rallying behind one of their own and making sure they are taken care of? But also, how can we ignore the massive flaws in our healthcare system that forces sick people into this situation.

Public and private insurance programs are failing. 14% of adults still don’t have healthcare, even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act and out-of-pocket spending costs Americans $365 billion a year.

Unfortunately, it seems like Americans are forced to ask for charity to foot the rest of the bill. While charitable giving undoubtedly has value in our society and is currently a vital part of our healthcare system, there is still a large burden on the sick person or their family to “market” their plight. These efforts detract from what the sick people and their family should be doing: recovering and spending time together.

When one of these campaigns succeeds, we of course can celebrate, but we can’t allow ourselves to rest on our laurels. The system is broken and we can’t continue to play into it. We can’t let the instantaneous good feeling that comes from making a donation overpower the realization that this isn’t a sustainable way to fund healthcare. We need to combine our donations with political engagement to advocate for policies that can alleviate the financial burden placed on struggling people and their families.

As we are all aware, we are currently in an election year. Now is a chance to see what plans candidates have to offer and if any of them prioritize addressing this issue. Stay informed and be vocal. Move beyond the one-time donor to becoming a lifelong advocate.