Even with insurance, it’s become increasingly hard for patients to cover their health-care costs, prompting them to look for alternative ways to cover their bills.
Many patients have turned to crowd funding, which allows people to raise small amounts of money from large groups of people, to help cover their medical costs. Entrepreneurs and small businesses have been using crowd funding for a couple years now to raise cash for their ventures and now the financing method has spilled into more consumed-focused areas like health care.
“Even with adequate health insurance there are so many associated costs due to lost wages,” says Brad Damphousse, chief executive of crowd funding website GoFundMe. “If you have a medical emergency, chances are you will miss work, which will impact your ability to pay the mortgage, utilities or rent.” He says the people looking to raise money for medical purposes on his site are typically suffering from an unexpected illness, accident or injury.
While users of GoFundMe are raising money for a slew of reasons and projects, the most popular area is health-care costs.
“It makes a lot of sense because the nature of crowd funding is to bring family, friends and communities online to a single destination and I don’t think too many other categories and causes evoke such emotional motivation and an urgent response,” he says.
To underline his point, one campaign on the site to support Boston marathon victims has already raised $730,493 of its $1 million goal.
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Lauren Pimpare uses crowfunding to help cover medical expenses relating to her 22-month old son who has cerebral palsy and is legally blind. “I knew from birth he was going to be very challenged and I realized that to help him reach his full potential I needed to look for other resources outside traditional medical insurance,” she says. Knowing that her health insurance coverage wasn’t going to cover all her needs and that her family was already struggling financially, she made her appealed for funds on GoFundMe. “It enables us to keep people informed about what’s going on with us and it didn’t seem invasive,” says Pimpare. “It enables us to focus on what we need to do for our child and at the same time let people support you.” So far, Pimpare has raised $20,000 in about nine months and is aiming to double that each year.
To start a campaign on the site, users can upload videos and photos to go along with their story and reasons for raising money. Once the campaign is created, GoFundMe will share it with other social media websites including Facebook, Twitter and send out an email. “People already closest to you are made aware of this need in your life and can show support with financial contributions,” says Damphousse. It’s free to create a campaign, but the company takes a 5% fee from any donations received.
According to Damphousse, the average medical campaign garners $2,432.23 and the average amount donated is $77.35. Since GoFundMe started categorizing appeal types, $18.5 million has been raised for medical related campaigns.
GoFundMe users have raised more than $60 million since its launch in May 2010, and the company expects users to raise more than $150 million in 2013. The company grew 500% last year and is growing on average about 30% each month so far this year. “People are becoming more accepting of the idea,” says Damphousse, noting the success of the campaigns also helps. “Word travels fast. Each successful campaign is a testament to how effective it is.”