Jan 17, 2019

GoFundMe's place in the health care system

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Crowd-funding sites like GoFundMe have become a critical part of the health care system — and GoFundMe’s CEO recognizes that that’s a bad thing.

By the numbers: GoFundMe sees more than 250,000 campaigns each year related to medical expenses. They account for about a third of the roughly $5 billion people donate through the site, according to Kaiser Health News.

What they’re saying: In an interview with KHN, GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon made clear he is not thrilled about what this says for the U.S. health care system. Some highlights:

  • “I had no notion of how severe the problem is. You read about the debate about single-payer health care and all the issues, the partisan politics. What I really learned is the health care system in the United States is really broken. Way too many people fall through the cracks.”
  • “The system is terrible … there are people who are not getting relief from us or from the institutions that are supposed to be there. We shouldn’t be the solution to a complex set of systemic problems.”

Not everyone can launch a successful health care fundraiser. It often takes "medical literacy, social-media savvy and access to video-making equipment," as Marketplace noted last year.

  • The crowdfunding attempts that struggled the most came from people with “multiple and overlapping health and social crises” — the same people who often have the hardest time with the traditional health care system.

Our reliance on charity goes further, too. There’s a different charity, called R.I.P. Medical Debt, that buys up and pays off people’s medical debts. So far it has paid off $434 million — out of the $750 billion Americans owe.

The bottom line: Our health care system is … not great.

Go deeper: Surprise medical bills could be a powerful campaign issue

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,251 people and infected almost 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.