One in five people say that they or someone they live with have donated to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for medical treatments or bills, according to a new survey from the non-partisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
It's the latest evidence that people are struggling to afford their healthcare expenses. NORC found that approximately 8 million people had started a fundraising campaign for themselves or someone they lived with, while more than 12 million people created a campaign for someone else.
"As annual out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, more Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills, and millions are turning to their social networks and crowdfunding sites to fund medical treatments and pay medical bills," said Mollie Hertel, senior research scientist at NORC. "Although about a quarter of Americans report having sponsored or donated to a campaign, this share is likely to increase in the face of rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs."
Nearly half of people said that they donated to friends, while 61% said that they donated to a relative, coworker or acquaintance. Over a third of donors reported that they gave to someone they didn't know.
But fewer families report having trouble paying their medical bills in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate dropped from 19.7% in 2011 to 14.2% in 2018, though most of the decrease happened between 2011 and 2015.
That trend coincided with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion, and an improving national economy that led more people to obtain health insurance through their jobs. People with health insurance have less trouble paying their medical bills.
Still, rising deductibles for people with employer-sponsored coverage means that many people face increasing out-of-pocket healthcare costs. But unlike copays that build up over the year, high deductibles can be hugely disruptive because beneficiaries must pay high upfront costs to access care.
Crowdfunding is when someone raises funds for a specific purpose from many people, typically through a website like Indiegogo or GoFundMe.