Many Crowdfunding Campaigns for Cancer Medical Bills Don’t Reach Target Goal

Many patients with cancer seek help from crowdfunding to raise money for their medical bills, but most only reach 20% of their goal, according to a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The research letter identified the 20 most prevalent cancers in the United States and studied 1,035 GoFundMe pages in October 2018. The median fundraising goal was $10,000, yet most campaigns only reached about a quarter of the requested goal (median, $2,125). In addition, 41% of campaigns (n=424) requested funding to pay for medical bills, while 23.2% (n=240) sought funding for medical travel.

“Technological innovations, expensive new therapies, and improved access to treatment have all contributed to the rising costs of oncologic care in the United States,” according to the authors. “The financial consequences for patients and their families are substantial. Patients with cancer often borrow money, avoid leisure activities, decrease food spending, sell possessions, go into debt, and/or declare bankruptcy, and they are at greater risk for disability or unemployment. These consequences are particularly great for patients who are underinsured or uninsured.”

Insurance status impacted financial needs

Patients and families without insurance were most affected by these costs, and underinsured or uninsured patients accounted for 26% of campaigns. Underinsured and uninsured patients sought higher donation amounts and received only about 19% of their goal on average. Underinsured patients were more likely to report unstable employment (n=107/271; 39.8%) compared with those who did not mention insurance status (n=214/764; 28.0%; P<0.01). Age, sex, cancer type, and insurance status did not appear to significantly affect the amount of funds raised.

Many of these crowdfunding platforms are being used for “experimental or unproven treatments,” according to the results. Medical fundraisers make up a third of GoFundMe campaigns and raise more money than any other category.