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Using Crowdfunding to Help Pay Medical Bills

Mark Huntsman
By Mark HuntsmanDecember 7, 2018
Using Crowdfunding to Help Pay Medical Bills

Last Updated: December 7, 2018

Recently, crowdfunding has made its way into medicine, with companies like Needymeds using it to connect people facing problems paying medical costs to programs and resources that can help.

We had the chance to speak with Technical Specialist Samuel Rulon-Miller and Program Manager Evan O’Connor, about NeedyMeds, how they help people, and HEALfundr, their crowdfunding platform that connects people who want to support those in need to those who have immediate healthcare costs they’re unable to meet.

How to Connect Patients in Need With Medical Programs That Help

Richard Sagall, MD, founded NeedyMeds in 1997. “He was working with a social worker patient assistance program,” says 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. He recognized the need and decided to do something about it.”

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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 healthcare and medicine is a huge factor in causing that shortfall.

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 or if a program even 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… 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 are 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 O’Connor — that are updated every six months with the most current information
  • The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card that connects patients with discounts of up to 80%
  • The newly updated Drug Discount Card App (available for Android and iPhone) 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

Using Crowdfunding for Healthcare and Medicine

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have proven incredibly successful at connecting people who need money to complete a project with people who are interested in supporting them. HEALfundr takes that crowdfunding principle and applies it to people who need help paying for medical costs.

There are no income or insurance restrictions — if you, a parent or senior loved one needs funds to be able to get a specific procedure, you can input your information on the site and start a campaign to raise the funds and meet your goal.

All campaigns are verified by HEALfundr by confirmation with the relevant doctor, so as a potential donor, you know the need is real. “You can fund everything medical related,” O’Connor notes, “anywhere in the U.S. or its territories. “If somebody is trying to fund their child’s cancer care, and they mention that their daughter or son wants to go to Disney World, we’ll help with that, too.”

Other crowdfunding services for medical causes include Go Fund Me, which has had success directly helping others, O’Connor explains.

“We’re so much more than just an information resource,” says O’Connor. “We are about directly helping people.”

Have you used crowdfunding to get the assistance that you needed or help pay medical bills? We’d like to hear your story in the comments below.

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Mark Huntsman
Mark Huntsman

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