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STATE OF PLAY

The hidden cost of medical crowdfunding

James Daw for Quartz
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter

Published

Health, the saying goes, is wealth. It isn’t a cliché: At about $8 trillion per year, the global expenditure in healthcare accounts for more than 10% of the world’s economy. The average amount each person spends on healthcare these days is higher than ever.

But those costs aren’t evenly distributed. The availability of services and their out-of-pocket price are dramatically different for different people. Where governments don’t provide for healthcare expenses—like the US or in low-income countries like India, where government programs don’t always reach everyone—citizens who face severe health conditions become vulnerable to financial distress.

This inequality in the affordability of healthcare has given rise to a whole new way of paying for treatment: crowdfunding. Not quite a public safety net, yet not an individual effort either, medical crowdfunding is a third way to pay for medical expenses, which teeters at the nexus of a broken health system, social media, and startup culture. Digital crowdfunding campaigns for medical expenses seek to turn a community—albeit one that potentially stretches as far and wide as the internet—into a safety net.

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