When insurance won’t pay: Family turns to crowdfunding site to raise money for life-saving treatment

Study finds crowdfunding provides little help in paying for healthcare


What do you do if you don’t have health insurance or your health insurer refuses to pay for treatment?

Most people take on the debt. Officials said that one in three adults in the United States has medical debt.

Some people turn to crowdfunding for help, but those campaigns are rarely successful.

There was $88 billion in medical debt on consumer credit records as of June 2021, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Medical debt is the largest source of debt in collections. A study found that almost half of people with medical debt intentionally avoided seeking care.

New York family turns to crowdfunding after insurance denies life-saving cancer surgery

A father in New York has been approved by the Cleveland Clinic to receive a life-saving transplant surgery, but his insurance has denied him three times.

According to family, Anthony Di Laura has a rare type of cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). He sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic after connecting with a man named Andy Voge on social media.

The Today show covered Voge’s story this month. He was told he had six months left to live -- then he met a doctor from the U.K. who successfully removed and replaced all of his affected organs in a first-of-its-kind operation in the United States.

Di Laura has been approved for that surgery by his doctors, but not by his insurance provider. They have gone through all three appeals with the insurance company and are now turning to an independent external review with New York State.

Since insurance won’t pay, the family has turned to crowdfunding -- find a GoFundMe link here -- to raise money for the treatment. The Di Laura family has raised nearly $150,000. WPIX reported that the surgery could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million.

Most GoFundMe campaigns for medical bills fail

A study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health found that between 2016-2020 medical bill campaigns raised more than $2 billion from 21.7 million donations.

Despite those numbers, the study found success was low. Only 12% of campaigns for medical bills met their goals and 16% received no donations at all. Campaigns started in 2020 raised even less money in areas with more medical debt, higher uninsurance rates and lower incomes.

The study concluded that, “Despite its popularity and portrayals as an ad-hoc safety net, medical crowdfunding is misaligned with key indicators of health financing needs in the United States. It is best positioned to help in populations that need it the least.”

University of Washington researchers found that campaigns are more successful in wealthier and more educated communities. In 2020, just under 18% of campaigns were started in areas with the highest household income bracket but accounted for more than one-fourth of total money raised. That same year, 20% of campaigns were launched in the lowest income bracket accounted for 12% of the total earnings.

The study also found that there were more campaigns in states with higher percentages of people with medical debt and without insurance. Those campaigns raised less than campaigns in other states.

“Relying on marketplace-based solutions only deepens already steep health inequalities. This research underscores the need for broader safety net programs that provide help to all those who need it,” said Nora Kenworthy, associate professor of nursing and health studies at UW Bothell.

Poll: Are you struggling with medical debt?

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.