By: Donnie Lopez
Lately, it has been all over social media, pleas for help with healthcare..
My father has recently been diagnosed with cancer but cannot afford the treatment. He is a good man who has always helped others and now needs your help in return.
Accompanying this post is usually a link to a GoFundMe page to donate money to help provide for the poor man’s much-needed medical care. Likely, you have seen similar posts yourself after spending any time on social media. You may even personally know friends or family that have gone through this.
Unfortunately, with the skyrocketing costs of America’s medical industry posts like these are becoming more and more common, and necessary. Even more unfortunate is that the amount of money typically raised is limited by an individual’s social network, or essentially their popularity. If these trends continue, America is set to become the first society with popularity-based medical care, and this will be a severe problem for the average American.
One of the largest (and most obvious) problems of crowdfunding is spreading it to enough people. Many people have heard of crowdfunding success stories where hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars were raised. Most of these large donations, however, are for projects presented by corporations who have sunk advertising money into crowdfunding as a primary means of generating revenue for their project. Individuals with medical needs have raised similar amounts, on occasion. Yet these are often the exception rather than the rule, and akin to winning the lottery.
The average person who uses crowdfunding for medical care assistance is likely to extend their message little further than friends and family. According to the Pew Research Center, the average person only has about 300 Facebook friends. Extending to other platforms, and perhaps branching out at least from other family members sharing the crowdfunding page, this means that these pages are likely only going to be viewed by maybe 500 total people, and that is probably being generous. This raises the second problem of crowdfunding: getting people to actually donate.
It is not enough to just get people to see your page, they also need to donate their own hard-earned cash for your cause. Most people would likely agree that medical care assistance is one of the worthiest causes anyone can find on crowdfunding sites. (It’s not like you’re asking for a brand-new car or a luxury vacation.) Yet, realistically getting people to give money for a cause without receiving anything in return is no small feat. People are additionally limited by the income levels of friends or family as well.
Let’s face it, we aren’t regularly spending time hanging out with millionaires. Because most of us need the money we are paid every month to maintain our own lives, many people will only be able to contribute up to $20, and that’s assuming they can contribute at all. Even in this best-case scenario of receiving an average of $20 from 500 different people, that is only about $10,000. In today’s price of medical care, that number is hardly a dent in the overall cost. A report by PBS NewsHour found that the average annual amount an American spends on medical care is just over $10,000. Although this number might seem close to what could be raised, it is also being calculated including people who merely received regular check-ups for the year. An emergent medical procedure that would require a crowdfunding effort will undoubtedly cost much more.
What then should people do? Should Americans begin to treat their popularity as a calculated coefficient to determine the amount of medical care they can receive? Perhaps we are returning to the old adage of “singing for your supper,” only now it might be “singing for your medically prescribed lifesaving insulin.”
If this is the case, every American without medical insurance needs to research ways to improve their personal “brand.” They will need to post regularly on social media with insightful wit and humor. Sharing popular memes regularly is, of course, a must. Also, all social media posts must fall in line with the current popular opinion. Therefore, researching polling statistics about every subject before a mandatory post is equally important to ensure maximum followers. Growing a dedicated following will take time, so it is imperative you begin immediately to gain followers that you will later need for your future medical care. Just think of it as a part-time job that you work solely to pay for your medical needs. After all, it’s not uncommon currently in America for people to work a job simply for medical care.
For those of us unable to become minor celebrities to pay for medical treatment, there is the option of signing up for insurance. For millions of Americans, even the price of insurance is outrageous and unobtainable, like a far-off dream one observes from inside a nightmare. Even those who manage to obtain insurance often gain little more than a paid coupon book of services that may or may not apply to their personal needs and can still require additional out-of-pocket expenses. On the bright side, the debt incurred is not the soul-crushing amount an individual is billed when they do not have insurance.
Healthcare in America is critically diseased, and the latest symptom is crowdfunded care. Asking friends and family for medical assistance on social media is hardly a realistic solution. Yet compared to the present alternative, it is sadly just as viable and anything else. The only real solution will require a major change to America’s medical system, something that will make healthcare more affordable for everyone. Perhaps as people increase their personal popularity and social media group size for their future medical needs, they can also advocate for changing our system for the betterment of everyone.
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Donnie Lopez is a gay Latino/Hispanic social and political commentator, writer, entertainment journalist, and professor. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic/Latino culture. With his novel insight, veracity, and sense of humor, he entertains as well as educates the world.