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20 million Americans seek to pay medical bills through crowdfunding, per survey

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Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 18:31:25-05

On the same day six Democratic presidential candidates will debate healthcare costs and coverage in the US, the University of Chicago released a survey on Wednesday that estimates that 20 million Americans used crowdfunding to help pay for medical expenses.

The survey found that an estimated 8 million Americans use crowdfunding to fund the healthcare expenses for themselves or a member of their household. Another 12 million launch crowdfunding campaigns for a friend or relative outside of the household.

The survey found that many Americans are generous in helping others. Nearly 50 million American adults, representing 20 percent of the population, have contributed to a crowdfunding campaign.

Of those who said they contributed, 46% said they donated to a friend's campaign, 35% to a stranger's campaign, 24% to a relative's fundraiser, 23% to an acquaintance's fundraiser, and 14% to a co-worker's campaign.

"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 at the University of Chicago. “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.”

One of the leading crowdfunding sites, GoFundMe, says that the platform raises $650 million per year for medical expenses. GoFundMe says that more than 250,000 campaigns are started a year for medical expenses.

According to 2018 figures released in December 2019, Americans spend $11,172 a year per person on healthcare expenses. As baby boomers age, the share is expected to rise by 5.5% a year over the upcoming decade, according to government figures.

Government estimates from 2018 indicate that 27.5 million, or 8.5% of the population, were uninsured, a slight increase from the year prior.

Researchers conducted 1,020 interviews, and the survey has a margin of error of 4%.