Sunday, June 25, 2017

This is America

In America, we have millions uninsured (even after the ACA), high deductible plans and ten thousand dollar per month chemotherapy treatments for desperate patients with stage IV disease.  In America, alone among western democracies, medical bills represent the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.  In America, we choose to commodify the health care sector, transform it into a vast, complex money generating machine.  This is the American way: free markets, personal responsibility, distrust of government interference.

And so it ought to surprise no one that some private companies (from Bloomberg) see opportunity in the misery of others.  Crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe are seeing remarkable growth in the category of medical expense fund raising.  And why wouldn't they?  What else are people to do when you get a bill from a hospital for 12 grand or your company's "insurance plan" carries a $6000 deductible?  It's the 21st century: you go on line and ask for money from strangers.

Of the $2 billion in money raised on GoFundMe last year, nearly half was for medical expense campaigns.  This is both commendable and abhorrent.  Commendable in the sense that it suggests a widespread philanthropic spirit running through our nation.  But is this really the best we can do?  A 21st century version of a spare change jar at the check-out counter of your local diner, proceeds of which to be used for "Jenny Miller's cancer pills"?  It's utterly absurd.  And most of these crowd funded endeavors don't raise nearly enough to cover the outstanding remittances. One study suggested that over 90% of medical expense campaigns on GoFundMe came up short of the requested goals.  In fact, the average fundraiser for medical bills got only 40% of what was needed.  So an American citizen, drowning in debt, gets the double ignominy of having broadcast his financial troubles for all to see, only to come up short anyway.    

But at least GoFundMe makes out all right.  Shed no tears for them.  For every donation, they take 5%.  That's a nice round number when you're talking about billions.

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