How to Pay for Expensive Medical Treatments
It’s become a sadly familiar tale. We pay private insurers outrageously high premiums for years, thinking we’ll have access to health care if the worst should happen. But when we actually need care, we’re shocked to find out how little our plans actually cover.
If you can’t access or afford expensive treatments, it doesn’t mean you have some personal failing—it’s a systemic problem. Medical expenses are the primary cause of bankruptcy in the US. Worse, many Americans forego lifesaving procedures because they can’t afford them. People in every other developed nation (all of which provide healthcare to their citizens) find this situation shocking.
No matter how well you understand the source of the problem, it’s still up to you to figure out how to pay for the care you need. GoFundMe can help—people turn to our crowdfunding platform to raise funds for expenses every day. And unlike other crowdfunding sites, we have a 0% platform fee for organizers. GoFundMe is free—and changing the way the world gives.
The perils of for-profit medical care
You may have already made the unfortunate discovery that any given treatment varies greatly in price—not based on differences in quality of treatment, but on who’s paying (or not paying, as the case may be). Lab tests, medications, hospital stays—all of these are subject to dramatically different pricing from one patient, and one provider, to the next (see price negotiating tips below). Treatment costs can also vary widely depending on where you live.
One result of this lack of transparency is that you often can’t know the full cost of treatment until you reach the end of the process. While private insurance policies cap annual out-of-pocket spending, that cap is often shockingly high—in 2017, it’s $14,300 for a family plan purchased on the ACA exchanges. Who has an extra $14,300 lying around? Statistically speaking, very few—nearly half of all Americans can’t afford a surprise $400 expense.
Expensive medical costs can be a burden enough; we haven’t discussed the cost of lost income, childcare, transportation, and all the other related expenses that go into making a full recovery from an acute injury, much less adjusting your life to a chronic medical condition.
Finding a way to handle medical costs
Negotiating lower prices
As with any marketplace item, you can negotiate the price of expensive medical procedures, a hospital stay, and more. Ideally, you could turn to someone who was an expert in such pricing for help negotiating your bill.
Many hospitals and doctors offer a discount if you pay cash and/or up front. If nothing else, finding out the cash price for a visit or procedure might reveal truer pricing and lead to a negotiated reduction in your bill, even if you don’t pay cash.
Payment plans are another way to spread the cost out over time and improve your cash flow. Remember, you can deduct some medical expenses from your tax bill (depending on factors including percentage of income spent on care in a given year), and a payment plan can potentially give you a deduction in more than one year.
There are nearly 3,000 not-for-profit hospitals in the US. If a hospital in your area is not-for-profit, see if you qualify for any programs they offer.
Crowdfunding for financial and emotional support
GoFundMe is a free crowdfunding platform used by millions of people facing some of life’s biggest challenges—including expensive medical care. Because GoFundMe is powered by donors™, we have a 0% platform fee for organizers so you get to keep more of the money you raise. People have raised over $5 billion on our site, and we’re the first and only crowdfunding platform with a donor protection guarantee.
Beyond financial support, our giving community can help you find the emotional and social support you need right now. Our fundraising pages are designed to help you easily share your story on Facebook and other social networks, and receive words of encouragement from friends and family. Ultimately, your supporters become part of your story—that’s the real beauty of crowdfunding.
Whether your fundraiser is for yourself or a loved one, start your crowdfunding fundraiser here. Use our medical crowdfunding step-by-step guide for a successful fundraiser.
Tapping other financial resources
Beyond negotiating and crowdfunding, other resources may be available to you. Here’s a list of resources we hope you find helpful.
General healthcare benefits
- Benefits.gov will help you find government benefits to which you may be entitled.
- Search by state at NeedyMeds.org to learn about your state’s programs for medical care, prescription assistance, medical equipment, and more.
- The United Way can provide you with information about medical assistance in your area.
Help with insurance premiums and copayments
- The Assistance Fund helps people with copays and monthly premiums.
- PAN will help pay for copayment assistance for a wide variety of medications if you meet income requirements.
Medical care assistance
- Search for a clinic by zip code at the National Association of & Charitable Clinics’ website. Vision care, dental care, and mental health services are sometimes included.
- Veterans can receive assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Support for medication and medical devices
- Good Days from CDF helps offset the costs of specific medications used to treat illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and more than 30 other illnesses.
- Some pharmaceutical companies have programs to provide medication at a reduced cost. Research what’s available for your medications at RXAssist.org or the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.
Assistance for cancer and chronic conditions
- CancerCare helps eligible people pay for cancer-related costs.
- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offers assistance with health care claims and filing appeals. It also has a copay assistance program.
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) offers financial help with insurance premiums and copays, diagnostic testing, and travel to specialists not covered by insurance.
- HealthWell Foundation helps patients with chronic illnesses pay for prescription drug copays, deductibles, and insurance policy premiums.
Women’s healthcare assistance
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can refer you to or low-cost services for pregnant women and their babies in your community. The HHS also has health care centers that provide a variety of services, including complete care when you’re pregnant.
- Planned Parenthood has more than 700 health centers across the country. The organization helps provide pregnancy testing, annual exams, and general care to women (and men).
Children’s healthcare assistance
- If you have children, you may be able to get health care coverage for them through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Insurance coverage varies from state to state, but all states cover check-ups, immunizations, hospital costs, dental care, lab services, and x-rays.
- If you have a child with disabilities, you may be able to get assistance through Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN). Services include assistive technology and family support. Visit FamilyVoices.org for more information.
Support for dental, vision, and hearing care
- The Donated Dental Services (DDS) program provides dental treatment to the elderly, disabled, or medically fragile. More than 15,000 dentists volunteer for DDS across the country.
- Sight for Students provides vision exams and glasses to children from low-income families.
- EyeCare America is offered through the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Volunteers provide eye care to people who may be at risk for glaucoma, senior citizens, children, and people with diabetes.
- Vision USA optometrists provide eye exams (to those who qualify) in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- New Eyes for the Needy buys eyeglasses for people in financial need.
- Mission Cataract USA offers cataract surgery to people of all ages who can’t afford the surgery.
- The HIKE Fund helps provide qualifying children and young adults under the age of 20 with hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
You can do this
We know the situation may seem insurmountable, but every day we see people use medical fundraising successfully—receiving both financial help for medical treatment and emotional support from friends, family, strangers, and members of our worldwide community. GoFundMe can help you raise funds to cover costs. Start your medical fundraiser today. Sometimes traveling to other countries for treatment will lower costs; for more information, read Medical Tourism and How to Fund It.