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Desperate Patients Turning To Crowdfunding To Pay Medical Bills

Medications and treatments in the US are some of the most expensive in the world and people are increasingly turning to other options to help pay for it.
Desperate Patients Turning To Crowdfunding To Pay Medical Bills
Sherie Drees was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after Mother’s Day, on 11 May. Image from: guardian.com

I've been saying this for long time: Nationalize the pharmaceutical industry. We already fund their research, it's crazy that all we get in return are obscene prices. No one should have to beg to pay their medical bills. Via Alternet:

“We did not want to go into problems with our house and credit,” says Lisa Salo, a kindergarten teacher from Suwanee, Georgia. But Salo’s chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer were already costing her $4,000, and she knew she would owe another $4,000 in January.

When Salo and her husband could not pay the first bill right away, the collection agencies started calling. Salo and her husband had never been late with any bills before her illness, but all the money they earn goes toward their mortgage and their two children. They had no idea how to come up with the money, and they were embarrassed to ask for help.

A parent of one of Salo’s former students, Hahnee Kang Oh, noticed something was wrong and set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Salo’s treatment. In the past three weeks, 113 people have donated, raising $6,855. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming for Salo. She considers herself one of the “lucky ones” with a good insurance policy that does not require a co-pay for each treatment. She felt embarrassed that her family needed help paying her medical bills, but knew she could not turn the money down.

Medications in the US are some of the most expensive in the world. Nowhere is that more clear than in the high cost of life-saving cancer treatments. New cancer treatments are priced on average at $120,000 per year, and the overall price of cancer medication has grown 100-fold when adjusted for inflation since 1965.

While concerned physicians have tried to push back on drug manufacturers through op-eds and a Change.org petition calling for reforms that would lead to lower cancer medication prices, patients unable to afford the treatment costs have had to turn to crowdfunding sites to help pay for care.

Crowdfunding usually gets attention in the press as the source of seed money for cutting edge inventions and cool art projects. Crowdfunding paid for a Veronica Mars movie, the development of the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift and a lot of potato salad for one lucky man. Increasingly it is also being used as a lifeline for people battling cancer who can’t afford the high financial burden of out of pocket costs and deductibles for treatments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.


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“People are abandoning treatment. People are scared they will go bankrupt and they will take away from family necessities and have to choose between treatment to prolong life or spend money on their family,” says Hagop Kantarjian, chairman of the leukemia department at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and a vocal advocate for lower cancer drug pricing. Kantarjian’s Change.org petition calls for a number of changes to lower cancer drug prices, among them the right to import lower cost cancer drugs from Canada for personal use for patients who can’t afford US prices and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

No one deserves the added burden of financial disaster when they're dealing with a life-threatening illness.

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