The focus of being a self-pay patient is, obviously, paying directly for your own medical care. While that usually means paying for care with personal funds, including money in a heath savings account that has been set aside for the purpose, it also includes money that comes from other sources.
Funds from other sources includes payouts from critical illness or fixed benefit policies, or money sent from a health care sharing ministry or its members. It also includes charitable giving, where people simply find out about a person’s need to pay medical bills and chip in for purely altruistic reasons.
I’ve mentioned the idea of fundraising for medical needs before, and how it can be an option for people who are struggling or unable to pay directly for their own care. This sort of charity is nothing new, at least based on my own experience regularly seeing collection jars in Iowa stores raising funds for a local cancer patient’s medical bills (oddly, I don’t see a whole lot of that out here in Virginia, although it may be mostly a rural vs. urban/suburban thing, as usually I found these collection jars in rural areas).
Needless to say, the internet has opened up the opportunities for this sort of charitable giving and raising of funds for medical needs. There are a handful of sites that are focused on what is called ‘crowdfunding’ for medical needs, including GiveForward.com, Supportly, GoFundMe, and CauseWish. In addition to raising money to pay for medical bills, some of these sites also let you raise money for related expenses such as housing modifications (adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.).
Today I’m thrilled to see that NeedyMeds*, which has generally focused on prescription drugs by helping connect people with the patient assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as offering a free prescription drug discount card, has launched its own crowdfunding site for medical needs, HEALFundr.
“Crowdfunding” is a buzzword that hasn’t quite made it to everyone’s ears yet. It refers to the practice of collecting donations from a group or “crowd” to raise money through small donations towards a single goal. The platform has existed for longer than most would think—19th century literary works were published in a similar way, local or noteworthy patrons giving commissions to an author for a future copy of their work…
New platforms are using modern technology to elicit donations for personal or cause-based campaigns. Individuals raise funds to help recover from a disaster or personal tragedy, pay their pet’s vet bills, fund honeymoons, and to help pay their own medical bills. These personal campaigns can spread through social media beyond those you personally know to people who simply support your cause. Over $100,000,000 has been raised through charitable crowdfunding campaigns.
…crowdfunding can be a lifeline where there may be no other viable solutions. Costs of care can prevent someone from seeking out a doctor or buying their prescription medications, leading to worse financial problems in the future if their condition worsens. According to a 2011 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, half of American adults say they wouldn’t be able to easily produce $2,000 in the event of a medical emergency.
Part of NeedyMeds’ mission statement has always been to help people facing problems paying for medications and health care. With all of this in mind, we have taken what we see as the next logical step in crowdfunding towards medical expenses with a new project: HEALfundr.
Our vision for HEALfundr is one of secure, 100% verified campaigns where funds are paid directly to legitimate medical expenses. We have designed a unique new crowdfunding platform that helps relieve the stress of managing finances in times of health crisis as well as granting the donor confidence that their donation is going to an essential need and directly where it should.
The only eligibility requirements of HEALfundr are that you have legitimate medical expenses and are a resident of the United States or its territories—there are no limits on income level or insurance status. To verify campaigns, we require a letter from a diagnosing or attending doctor. In case we have questions, we ask for a release form allowing the doctor to discuss the patient’s healthcare with HEALfundr.
Every campaigner that is approved gets their own personal campaign page where they can share their story, post updates, and receive words of encouragement from donors. Bills are submitted to HEALfundr and paid directly with the crowd-raised funds. Our hope is that this new project will truly give people the power to heal.
NeedyMeds has also put together a webinar on HEALFundr that gives additional information, which can be viewed here.
One of the best things about HEALFundr is that they also engage in medical bill negotiation on behalf of the patients who are raising funds (other sites may as well, I’m not sure on that). Given the outrageous ‘chargemaster’ prices that most hospitals charge the uninsured, this can help to dramatically reduce the amount that needs to be raised by turning a $100,000 bill into a $20,000 bill.
And of course having NeedyMeds, with all it brings to the table already in terms of experience and knowledge helping to connect patients with low-cost and free health care, as the operator of HEALFundr can only be an asset for anybody who turns to them for help.
In my previous commentary on medical fundraising through these sorts of crowdfunding sites I described the option this way:
Being able to raise money from family, friends, and strangers through one of these or other fundraising platforms is not most people’s first choice for paying for needed medical care. But it is an option, and if need be it can help make the difference between getting timely, appropriate care while avoiding crushing financial debt, or not getting needed care or having a stack of medical bills with no realistic chance to pay them off.
That still seems to me to be the case, and I still highly recommend that people find some sort of coverage to protect them from major medical expenses, whether that’s membership in a heath care sharing ministry, a critical illness or fixed-benefit insurance policy, short-term insurance, a high-deductible plan, or something else. But for a variety of reasons that’s not going to be an option for everybody, and HEALFundr is a very welcome addition to the world of crowdfunding for medical needs for people who need this option.