People in states with higher medical debt and lower rates of insurance coverage are more likely to try to raise money for health care through crowdfunding but less likely to succeed, research finds.

This so-called safety net isn’t much of one at all, say the researchers.

“We tend to think of crowdfunding as something that can help out anyone in hard times, but this data really indicates that where people need the most help paying for health care, crowdfunding provides the least help,” says Nora Kenworthy, associate professor of nursing and health studies at the University of Washington, Bothell.

For the study in the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers collected data from more than 437,000 GoFundMe campaigns over a five-year period and analyzed, at the county and state level, crowdfunding use and outcomes. With the help of Census data and other information, Kenworthy and coauthor Mark Igra, a graduate student in sociology, assessed how many campaigns started, and how much money they raised, in areas with more or less income, medical debt, and health insurance coverage.

The researchers have explored various angles of crowdfunding—who uses it, where they live, and how successful their campaigns are. Last year, Igra and Kenworthy focused on crowdfunding during the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic and found that campaigns were more successful in wealthier and more educated communities, a trend they attributed not just to financial resources available in such communities, but also to potentially wider—and wealthier—social networks. Igra and Kenworthy also found that 90% of campaigns, regardless of location, failed to meet their goals.

For this study, the researchers wanted to examine medical crowdfunding, and the extent to which it helps people who struggle to pay for health care in the US. On GoFundMe, which holds the majority of the crowdfunding market in the US, more than one-third of campaigns are related to health care. GoFundMe reports more than 250,000 campaigns to finance medical needs are started each year, raising more than $650 million. The study amassed one of the largest, publicly available datasets of GoFundMe campaigns in recent years, from 2016 through 2020, and demonstrated that more campaigns were started in low-income and under-insured communities, but campaigns in more affluent communities with higher rates of insurance coverage raise substantially more money.

Read the full article about crowdfunding healthcare by Kim Eckart at Futurity.