The use of online crowdfunding platforms, such as GoFundMe, to help cover the costs of oncology care emphasizes the weighty financial burden placed upon patients with cancer, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Technological innovations, expensive new therapies, and improved access to treatment have all contributed to the rising costs of oncologic care in the United States,” Andrew J. Cohen, MD, of the department of urology at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues wrote. “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.”
To characterize the use of crowdfunding to support oncology care, researchers examined 1,035 campaigns on GoFundMe related to the top 20 most prevalent cancers in the United States.
They found that, although the median fund-raising goal was $10,000 (interquartile range, $5,000 to $20,000), the median donation obtained was $2,125. Furthermore, campaigns for underinsured patients (26.2% of the total campaigns) requested an average of $10,000 more than those that did not mention insurance.
The use of online crowdfunding platforms, such as GoFundMe, to help cover the costs of oncology care emphasizes the weighty financial burden placed upon patients with cancer.
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The most common campaign purposes were paying medical bills, medical travel and nonmedical bills, with researchers noting that underinsured patients were more likely to seek funds for unpaid medical bills (65.7% vs 32.1% of those who did not mention insurance). Underinsured patients were also more likely to report unstable employment and a prior surgical treatment.
Regardless of insurance status, researchers found that posters received approximately a quarter of their requested goal.
“Although the Affordable Care Act reduced the uninsured rate, cost containment measures have not been realized by all patients,” the researchers wrote. “In this cohort, patients reported multiple competing financial needs, but most pressing were unpaid medical bills, which may represent copays, out-of-pocket drug costs, or high deductibles. These results suggest that the financial burden of health care requires increasing attention and advocacy.” – by Melissa J. Webb
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.