Crowdfunding for Medical Expenses

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'When a friend or relative needs help paying medical bills, many Americans are turning their social network into a safety net through a growing number of online fundraising platforms. But some observers say these websites are a symptom of the failing health care system in the United States — and hardly a solution. Websites like GiveForward, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe and YouCaring have been launched in the US over the past five years. GiveForward is the only site primarily focused on medical campaigns, and cofounder Ethan Austin says he’s seen people raise US$50 000 in a day.' (


'The concept is an extension of community fundraisers often held when people get sick. The websites help users connect their campaign to social media like Twitter and Facebook to solicit donations from family, friends and even strangers. It’s a kind of ‘crowdfunding’ — where many people chip in to fund a cause or project — that took off on sites like KickStarter for entrepreneurs. Most crowdfunding sites take a percentage of the money raised by each campaign, usually between 3% and 7%.

Since its launch in 2008, GiveForward campaigns have raised over US$8.8 million, and about 7600 campaigns have been completed, Austin says. Other fundraising sites accept campaigns for categories such as tuition, mission trips, start-ups or art projects. But at GoFundMe, the largest percentage of campaigns are health-related, and at YouCaring the majority of donations are in the area of medical expenses, according to their founders.

Austin says the popularity of these websites shows how desperate many Americans are when a relative or friend gets sick. “People don’t want to be seen as a charity case. But we’re all in the same boat, unless you’re Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or someone who’s mega-rich, we all could use a little extra help when someone gets sick.”

Medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, according to a study that indicated about 62% of personal bankruptcies in 2007 were reportedly due to medical bills, even though most of those people had insurance — up from about 46% in 2001 (Am J Med 2009;122[8]:741-46).

The average amount of money raised for a GiveForward health campaign is US$2650, though some have topped US$80 000." (


'There is always the possibility of abuse of Internet fundraising, as evidenced by the case of Ashley Kirilow of Burlington, Ontario, who in 2010 faked having cancer and used a Facebook page to help raise thousands of dollars. Dresser suggests it might be more effective to donate that money to a registered charity or a nonprofit group that has a systematic way of distributing funds.' (