Patients in the financially segregated US healthcare system are frequently forced to raise money from friends, family and strangers to pay for care. Providers have increasingly begun to incorporate this reality of American life into their official protocol.
One transplant clinic in Michigan has suggested, in a rejection of services letter, that a patient in need organize “a fundraising effort of $10,000.”
Earlier this month, Spectrum Health’s Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Clinic rejected patient Hedda Elizabeth Britt’s request for a heart transplant. The stated reason was “due to needing [a] more secure financial plan” to cover the medications required after such a procedure.
“We thank you for the opportunity to participate in your care,” the letter concluded strangely, given the circumstances.
Britt has since fundraised more than $10,000. But this was achieved only thanks to cultural influencers, like Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, sharing her post on social media. Britt’s success hardly means that GoFundMe and other platforms are viable long-term models for healthcare financing.
“Last week I gave to an acquaintance from back home for a medical recovery crowdfunding thing because I like him,” said Hudson Hongo, an editor at Gizmodo who has covered the phenomenon of viral stories, to journalist Luke O’Neill. “But it’s not like assholes deserve to be ruined by medical problems.”
Like Britt, who was denied a heart transplant because of her inability to pay for required medication, 12.7 percent of people below the poverty line were unable to afford access to prescription medicines in 2016, according to the CDC.
Politicians including President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have stated that they support the government negotiating US drug prices with manufacturers, to get them down to the prices of pharmaceuticals in other countries. Trump has nonetheless supported polices whose main outcome is to further enrich Pharma.
In the meantime, as Britt laments to O’Neill, “It’s horrible that we must do this for health care.”
Photo: The homepage of Gofundme.com, a crowdfunding platform