What are your thoughts on GoFundMe campaigns for medical costs?

Background that inspired the question: I am a recently retired educator with 28 years as a pubic school teacher. I spent 19 of those years in a single district in Texas. I left that district almost four years ago, but I still live in the town. I am long-time member of the community, both inside and outside the school.

A teacher colleague has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her condition is apparently rather grave, though not completely hopeless. I do know this person and she knows me, though we are not what I would consider close. She is married and has three kids (14 y/o twins and a younger child). As a public school teacher, I assume she took at least the most minimal health insurance offered to educators in our state. It would have a high deductible, but would be 80/20 after that and then 100% after the max out-of-pocket. The other insurance levels available would have a lower deductible and max, but would also be 80/20 going to 100 after max.

Bottom line is that she has, or has had access to, reasonable health insurance. Her problem right now seems to be that she cannot work and will not be able to work for a while. She has gone through her sick leave (which may not have been huge since she has three children – she would have burned some sick time having kids and taking care of them when they’ve been sick). So, not attending work, she doesn’t get paid. The GoFundMe, as I understand it, is to help fill this gap.

I believe that our country does an incredibly poor job in supporting people who become sick or injured. I support candidates who push for increased access to healthcare and I believe that single-payer is the ultimate solution. That single-payer would be a government program like Medicare for All.

I also believe that having more suffering may be the only way to get our politicians’ attention to get this done. We must somehow get the tide to turn on this issue.

But my former colleague is a real person. Will her suffering financial ruin help bring about my desired outcome (that no one suffer financial ruin due to healthcare)? Do I contribute because she is a respected former colleague and member of my community? Do I decline to contribute because I believe that healthcare in the richest country in the world should NOT rely on charitable giving?

What do y’all do?

…you aren’t going to change the world by either contributing or not. That isn’t the issue. The system is completely fucked up: but this isn’t what is fucking everything up.

The only questions you need to be asking yourself is: 1) Can you afford to contribute to the GoFundMe and 2) Do you want to contribute to the GoFundMe? There isn’t a correct answer to either question and if you decide that you don’t want to contribute then that’s okay. But we aren’t going to be able to answer that question for you. Just do what you want to do.

I tend to agree with Banquet_Bear that the actions of one average Joe has a negligible effect on changing the system, it’s like trying to put out a forest fire by pissing on it.

So with that in mind, my main criteria for deciding whether to contribute to such a fundraiser - is/was this person a dick? If yes, too bad, so sad. If not, I’ll contribute on a sliding scale depending on how much I like the person. From the level of closeness between the two of you that you described, I personally would donate $50 to such a person.

Of course you contribute if you can afford to do so. Even with GFM’s, there are way too many sacrificial lambs. There are 50 million GFM accounts, and one-third–over 16 million–are for medical expenses. Furthermore,90% of those medical GFM’s don’t meet their goals.

• GFM’s established for chronic illnesses don’t net as much as those for acute illnesses.
•Those for living expenses while someone recuperates tend to net less than those for direct medical expenses.
•The average GFM campaign garners less than $2,000.
•People who don’t have a network of well-to-do friends don’t earn much.

I get more GFM requests than I can afford to support. (Like you, I taught in public schools for many years. I’m still in touch with hundreds of former students–hence the requests. I take every opportunity for public comment, usually with something like, “I know all the contributions you’ll get won’t be nearly enough to pay your medical expenses. I hope everyone who contributes pushes for single-payer health care. That would be the best contribution of all.”

Think about it this way: many thousands (if not millions) of Americans have suffered financial ruin due to illness and related medical expenses (and losing their jobs due to being unable to work), and none of that has yet to make a significant difference in the way that healthcare and healthcare expenses work in this country. Your former colleague’s particular financial distress is not going to make a noticeable difference, one way or the other, on the issue.

Help her if you feel it’s the right thing for you, personally, to do, in order to assist a person whom you personally know. Withholding assistance that you might otherwise give, specifically because you would like to make a political or societal point, is, IMO, cruel.

Withholding money would have exactly one effect: it would increase her suffering, with no political impact whatsoever. Does she deserve to suffer because of your political agenda?

This isn’t new. Your government has been letting down your people about healthcare for all time.

It’s a scandal that the richest country on earth can’t look after its people, but you shouldn’t punish your colleague in the hope that will change in your lifetime. Because without some kind of civil rights era-style revolution, it won’t.

You can support the individual while opposing the system. The individual needs help, so give what you can. Hate the system? That’s what voting is for.

I feel like there’s unanimity in the responses, so let me just pile on.

I often see regional news segments asking me to donate so our LEOs can have what they need.

I remember families of warfighters having bake sales so that their family member, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, could have what they needed.

An organization wants my money so they can make a wounded warfighter’s home (handicapped) accessible on their return – significantly impaired – from the war.

I think ‘charity’ and ‘adoption’ is for shelter puppies, not for people broken by, or cast aside by, 'Murica.

But think globally and act locally.

I understand that sustaining and contributing to these utterly shocking injustices tends to perpetuate them. In a way – as always – they’ve got the monkeys dancing to their tune. As always, we privatize profit and socialize loss.

But I don’t turn my back when it’s pretty close to home. I write checks.

Oh, that it were different …

Your country raised you, your country fed you
And just like any other country it will break you
On front line send you, tax the hell out you
And just like any other country, it will fuck you, up you

I will +1 the “Help the individual if you can (and presumably want to), vote and work to change the system that forces them to beg for assistance in the first place” ideas.

If you don’t want to help that person or are unable to, that’s fine, but don’t blame them for the system. We shouldn’t have to have food banks to feed starving children in first-world countries either. But we do. To refuse to help just because the world is a shitty place is to make the world a shittier place.

I would contribute for living expenses, but not for medical bills. People should just let the medical bills go unpaid if they can’t afford to pay them: doctors and hospitals are much richer than I am.

I often contribute to GFM appeals. If the cause moves me, I’ll do it even if I don’t know the people. I don’t care what they use the money for-- medical bills, mortgage, funeral expenses. I’ve been dead broke in my life and people helped me out, so now that I’m not broke, I pay it forward. I’ve contributed anywhere from $50 to $2,000 and always anonymously.

People should not have to do these appeals for medical expenses. It’s wrong, but it’s the reality in this country. All I can say is thank goodness I didn’t get diagnosed with breast cancer until I was on Medicare.

You didn’t mention if your colleague has a husband. I’m assuming she does not?

(BTW, you have a significant typo in your first sentence.)

Contribute if you want to. I have sent money to GFMs several times; the one that comes to mind first was the HS classmate who died suddenly, had 2 teenage daughters and a husband on disability, and no life insurance.

When I worked for the public library system, the most important thing I learned was that whenever I sent out a press release to make sure there was an “L” in the word public.


Candidates who oppose universal health care respond with the argument that charitable giving should, and does, pay what users cannot pay… So, by donating to such charities, including GFMe, you are feeding the monster. And encouraging the heath care industry to aggressively enforce debt collection.

But the alternative is unconscionable.

This seems like a flavor of accelerationism to me (if the system is collapsing, let’s collapse it faster and more dramatically so as to stoke the popular outrage that will change it). The principle is perfectly rational, but it freaks me out a little to see how some people are so eager to throw other people under the bus, for benefits that the victim may never live to see.

I’m generally against accelerationism. When I see someone express an accelerationist attitude, I generally hope it’s a nothing more than a brief thought experiment of “how can I make good things come faster”, that rapidly concludes with “I have to consciously hurt people, with no real endgame in mind, and that’s probably bad.”

The fact that there are GoFundMe compaigns for medical costs is heinous and a symptom of a failed system.

You want to help your colleague?
Short term: Donate your colleague’s GoFundMe compaign.
Mid to long term: Openly support political parties and politicians who support single-payer healthcare. Make noise. Write letters, call your representative, etc. Do something.

For me, it was to make sure there was an “O” in Headcount.

IMHO you need to set aside the GoFundMe aspect, and your opinions about the US medical/insurance system.

A person you know is in need and has asked for help. Do you help?

Yowie. :astonished: