Using Crowdfunding to Help Pay Medical Bills
Crowdfunding has become a buzz topic in the last year, helping thousands raise money for causes that run the gamut. Recently, it has made its way into medicine, with companies like Needymeds using crowdfunding to connect people facing problems paying medical costs to programs and resources that can help them.
We had the chance to speak with technical specialist Samuel Rulon-Miller, and program manager Evan O’Connor, about the mission of NeedyMeds, how they help people, and HEALfundr, their new web service that connects people who want to support those in need with folks who have immediate healthcare costs they’re unable to meet.
The Origins of NeedyMeds
President Richard Sagall, MD, founded NeedyMeds in 1997. “He was working with a social worker patient assistance program,” says Samuel Rulon-Miller, “and he got a really detailed look at the fact that for social workers trying to help connect patients to assistance, it was like shooting in the dark. Rich recognized the need and decided to do something about it.”
The reality is stark: of the 20 million older Americans living alone or with a spouse, more than nine million don’t have enough money for basic expenses—and the expense of medicine and healthcare is a huge factor in causing that shortfall.
Connecting Patients in Need with Programs that Help
One of the biggest challenges facing patients who need help with medical bills is knowing where or who to turn to. How do you know if you’re eligible for a given program? For that matter, how do you even know a program exists? This is where NeedyMeds comes in.
“Our main database keeps track of patient assistance programs—usually offered by pharmaceutical companies—that offer medications at low or no cost,” says Samuel.
“If you have mediocre or no insurance and need help paying for medications, we have over 4,500 programs listed right now. We have three employees who work to keep track of all those programs. There are programs that you can search for by diagnosis. There are even programs that exist to help patients with transportation needs.”
But patient assistance programs is just part of what NeedyMeds does. Other key resources they provide include:
- A database of free or low-cost clinics—”More than 13,400 of them,” notes Evan O’Connor—that’s updated every 6 months with the most current information.
- The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card (free and completely anonymous) that connects patients with discounts of up to 80%.
- The newly updated Drug Discount Card App (available for iPhone and Android) which not only stores the card on the phone, but has a pharmacy finder that can connect you with any of the 63,000-plus pharmacies nationwide that accept the card.
The Power of Crowdfunding Comes to Healthcare
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have proved incredibly successful at connecting people who need money to complete a project with people who are naturally interested in supporting them. HEALfundr takes that crowdfunding principle and applies it to people who need help paying for medical costs.
There are no restrictions on insurance or income status—if you or someone you care for needs funds to be able to get a specific procedure, you can go to the site, input your information, and start a campaign to raise the funds and meet your goal. All campaigns are verified by HEALfundr via confirmation with the relevant doctor, so as a potential donor, you know the need is real. “You can fund everything medical related,” Evan notes, “anywhere in the U.S. or its territories. “If somebody is trying to fund their child’s cancer care, and they mention that the kid wants to go to Disney World, we’ll help with that, too.”
“We’re so much more than just an information resource,” says Evan. “We are about directly helping people.”
Have you used crowdfunding in medicine to get the assistance that you needed? Please share your story in the comments below.
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