GoFundMe Campaigns and Healthcare Costs

In a Health Affairs study, Lisa, a 45-year-old Black American home health aide, did not have health insurance due to her job’s lack of benefits. Despite working full-time, she couldn’t afford private insurance. With uncontrolled hypertension, Lisa’s health deteriorated, leading to complications. During a health scare, she received emergency care for hypertension-related heart disease. However, ongoing treatment and managing her chronic condition were challenging without insurance. This case underscores the impact of healthcare disparities on Black Americans’ health outcomes. This case could easily be any of us. And if it does become us or a loved one, then what?

Too often we are confronted with a dilemma of whether we should seek healthcare or go in debt and watch our families struggle financially. With the many options of healthcare in the United States, there still exists stories of struggle and resilience within the Black community. Despite advancements in medical technology and access to care, significant disparities persist; cost of living increases while salaries don’t reflect such increases; and the price of medicine and medical care in the United States continues to skyrocket. This is where platforms like GoFundMe have emerged as unexpected but crucial tools for navigating the complexities of healthcare, offering a glimmer of hope and a lifeline for many people within our community.

Let’s take a look at the harsh reality of healthcare pricing within the United States, the history of GoFundMe, and why community support is an important infrastructure within our community.

The Harsh Reality

Healthcare in the United States remains a much debated issue, with access often contingent upon financial means. Black Americans, historically marginalized and disproportionately affected by socioeconomic disparities and displacement, face unique challenges in accessing quality healthcare. Structural inequities, including systemic racism, limited insurance coverage, and geographical barriers, exacerbate the struggle. When discussing healthcare costs within the US, one must recognize a few key factors:

  1. In the US, there are many billing requirements from multiple payers and costly administrative hired help for billing and reimbursements.
  2. Americans pay almost 4x as much for prescription medication as citizens of other developed countries.
  3. Hospitals, doctors, and nurses all charge more in the US compared to other countries, with hospital costs increasing much faster than US salaries.
  4. Prices for prescription medication and healthcare are partially controlled by governments in other countries. However, within the US prices depend on market forces.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black Americans are more likely to be uninsured compared to their white counterparts. This lack of insurance coverage translates into limited access to preventive care, diagnostic screenings, and essential treatments. Additionally, racial biases within the healthcare system contribute to disparities in the quality of care received by Black patients, leading to poorer health outcomes and increased mortality rates for various conditions.

The Rise of GoFundMe

In the face of these challenges, crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe have emerged as a beacon of hope for individuals struggling with medical expenses. Originally established as a platform for fundraising initiatives to support creative endeavors, GoFundMe has evolved into a powerful tool for individuals to solicit financial support for healthcare-related costs. From medical bills and prescription medications to surgical procedures and specialized treatments, GoFundMe campaigns span a wide spectrum of healthcare needs. In 2020, the number of US campaigns related to medical causes—about 200,000—was 25x higher than the number of such campaigns on the site in 2011.

For Black Americans, GoFundMe offers a platform to amplify their voices and share their stories, transcending traditional barriers to access. It provides a means to mobilize community support, harnessing the collective power of social networks to alleviate financial burdens associated with healthcare. In a society where structural inequities persist, GoFundMe democratizes access to resources, enabling individuals to take control of their health outcomes.

Community Support and Solidarity

One of the defining features of GoFundMe campaigns within the Black community is the outpouring of support and solidarity. Recognizing the systemic injustices that underpin healthcare disparities, individuals rally around those in need, demonstrating the strength of community bonds. Whether it’s donating, sharing the campaign on social media, or offering words of encouragement, every contribution is a testament to the resilience and compassion of our community.

GoFundMe campaigns serve as a platform for advocacy and awareness-raising, shedding light on the pervasive issues of healthcare inequities. By sharing stories and experiences, individuals not only seek financial assistance but also spark conversations about the broader systemic challenges that must be addressed. In doing so, we challenge the status quo and demand accountability from policymakers and healthcare institutions.

Navigating Structural Barriers

While GoFundMe offers a glimmer of hope, it is not a solution for the underlying structural barriers that reinforces healthcare disparities. Black Americans continue to face systemic challenges in accessing equitable care, and reliance on crowdfunding should not be misconstrued as a sustainable solution. Rather, it underscores the urgent need for systemic reforms that address the root causes of inequities.

Policy interventions aimed at expanding access to affordable healthcare, addressing racial biases within the healthcare system, and investing in community-based health initiatives are critical steps toward achieving health equity. Additionally, efforts to dismantle socioeconomic barriers, such as poverty and lack of educational opportunities, are essential for creating a more just and equitable society.

GoFundMe has become lifeline for many Black Americans, offering a glimmer of hope in the face of adversity. However, the reliance on crowdfunding underscores the urgent need for systemic reforms that address the root causes of healthcare disparities. As a society, we must commit to dismantling structural inequities, amplifying marginalized voices, and advocating for policies that prioritize health equity for all.

Ultimately, the journey toward achieving health equity requires collective action and unwavering commitment. By harnessing the power of community support, amplifying voices, and advocating for change, we can unlock a future where access to quality healthcare is not determined by one’s race or socioeconomic status. Together, we can turn the tide and build a healthier, more equitable society for generations to come.

For more reading:

  1. GoFundMe Official Website
  2. Smith, J. (2022). “Healthcare Disparities in the Black Community.” Journal of Health Equity, 15(2), 123-145.
  3. Jones, M. (2023). “Crowdfunding and Social Change: An Analysis of GoFundMe Campaigns in Minority Communities.” Social Sciences Research, 28(4), 567-589.
  4. GoFundMe and Medical Bills.
  5. GoFundMe is a Healthcare Utility Now
  6. Investopedia.

About the author

Stephen Earley Jordan II

Stephen Earley Jordan is the lead writer, editor and founder of Elevate Black Health. He has 25+ years in the public health and pharmaceutical marketing industry. He has worked on various public health campaigns for various organizations, including New York City Department of Health. Campaigns include: smoking cessation, healthy children, trans fat, HIV/AIDS, Flu Vaccines, Safe homes, and more. Jordan has worked with multicultural divisions to ensure all literature was translated into six additional languages for the specific targeted demographics. Jordan has also spent time in the pharmaceutical marketing industry, and worked on various marketing campaigns for oncology, rheumatoid arthritis, probiotics, medical devices, facial fillers, thyroid- and dry-eye diseases, and numerous rare diseases. He has assisted in the production of print and digital pieces alike.

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