Here's How Crowdfunding Can Provide Healthcare For All
More than 80% of our population doesn't have health insurance, access to credit is limited, and government-run healthcare schemes are inadequate.
Healthcare crowdfunding is an alternative method of raising funds online for medical expenses, with the patient (or his/her friends or family) primarily relying on social media networks to mobilise donors to finance the relevant medical bills. Typically, each of these donors contribute relatively small sums of money online to help raise a much larger goal amount. For example, 200 donors contributing Rs 5,000 each can mobilise Rs 10 lakhs for a cancer surgery in less than 24 hours.
According to estimates, healthcare crowdfunding accounts for 80% of all donation crowdfunding volumes in India today. Healthcare crowdfunding is growing exponentially, with crores of rupees being raised every week by crowdfunding platforms. This is not surprising because healthcare is expensive. More than 80% of our population doesn’t have health insurance (National Sample Survey Office), access to credit is limited, and government-run healthcare schemes are inadequate.
According to National Health Accounts, out of pocket (OOP) expenditure (money that individuals pay on their own rather than being covered by insurance or health benefits) constitutes 63% of the total health expenditure — including all private and government sources. As a result, people primarily rely on household income, savings, and borrowings to finance healthcare expenditure. This pushes families into poverty. Unfortunately, India’s OOP healthcare expenditure is among the world’s highest.
The situation is alarming because the Government’s commitment to raising public healthcare expenditure as % GDP from 1.2% today to 2.5% by 2025 and the recently announced National Health Protection Scheme for Below the Poverty Line families will still be inadequate.
The reason for no coverage
It stands to reason, then, that alternative ways of paying for healthcare are presenting themselves particularly for India’s 250 million strong middle class population. Understandably, when a middle class family is faced with the challenge of raising treatment funds for a major treatment - say blood cancer or a liver transplant (each of which might cost anywhere between Rs 10 lakhs and 30 lakhs depending upon complexity and stage of disease) - under a demanding deadline due to the risk of death, the financial stress is enormous.
Due to the high risk of default, lack of collateral and long processing time, banks and NBFCs can’t extend much credit forcing families to ask for help from family and friends. Crowdfunding platforms have a formidable value proposition to such patients in making their appeal for generosity as easy and effortless as possible so that friends, family, and even complete strangers can finance the medical bills.
Collaborations between crowdfunding platforms and healthcare ecosystem players at nearly every level can make a significant difference by making care affordable for all. I will explain how.
Consider the customer journey of a recently diagnosed cancer patient. Let us say that this person is a middle-class individual with some savings, no health insurance, and without the kind of economic sway that s/he can get loans easily. Let us say that this person has been to a doctor with troubling symptoms, has been sent to a diagnostic centre or a pathological lab for tests, received a diagnosis, has been admitted to a hospital for a surgery or an invasive procedure.
Then, s/he has been put on expensive medication, chemotherapy, and recommendations for quality post-hospital care. Let us also assume that s/he has received an estimate of what their whole treatment will cost, a substantial sum s/he doesn’t have readily available.
Beginning with that trip to the diagnostic centre, which is when the patient starts spending on healthcare needs and finishing with palliative care after the treatment has been delivered, crowdfunding can be a legitimate way of pooling treatment funds from compassionate online givers committed to saving lives.
Planning the process
The process of crowdfunding through the life cycle of an extended sickness can be structured planfully if referral partnerships are set up between healthcare service providers and crowdfunding platforms. With this referral system, healthcare service providers, at each stage of medical treatment, can offer to patients the option of online fundraising with a crowdfunding platform they have a partnership with. Diagnostic centres and doctors could help save many lives by educating and referring patients at an early stage.
This method of referrals empowers the patient because it gives the patient’s family the option of retaining their lives’ savings i.e. preempting a state of absolute privation once treatment has been administered, and it helps families to not compromise on the quality of care due to financial factors.
Medical loan and insurance companies can also be an integral part of this process if they recommend crowdfunding to their customers who either do not meet eligibility criteria or are only partially funded. I envision a future where matching funds would soon be available from CSR and Govt. expenditure for patients who crowdfund such that one rupee is donated from CSR budgets for every one rupee donated via the internet via crowdfunding.
It is evident that the future of healthcare in India lies in a place where innovations in paying for medical treatment is the way forward for a great majority of Indians. The task at hand is to educate the populace about how simply and effectively crowdfunding can make health care affordable for all, and establish strong partnerships between healthcare service providers and crowdfunding platforms. This way, in the coming decade, we can make crowdfunding for healthcare needs a part of mainstream culture.