Healthcare for all via crowdfunding

The crowdfunding industry has always been abuzz with potential and an enormous scope for social change around the world. Right from social projects to medical emergencies, it is a great avenue to enable gradual and impactful social change in India.

Medical 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. For example: 500 donors contributing Rs 5,000 each can mobilise Rs 25 lakh for a cancer surgery or organ transplant in less than 24 hours.

The Indian healthcare sector has grown at 16.5% CAGR since 2008 and is expected to touch $280 billion by 2020 (FICCI-KPMG). Despite this rapid growth, the public healthcare system remains neglected. Among the BRICS countries, India spends the least on healthcare — just a mere 1.15 % of its GDP. Additionally, in India out-of-pocket health expenditure (medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance providers) amounts to a whopping 62% of total health expenditure. 

Both private and public players are vying to treat patients belonging to one of the most populous countries in the world. The intense disparity in costs between both public and private players could mean life or death situations to people facing medical emergencies due to financial unaffordability. This is where medical crowdfunding comes as an effective and simple solution. Here are three ways in which medical crowdfunding can help create positive shifts in the Indian healthcare sector:

Increase access and affordability of private healthcare: In the past, public healthcare institutions have been criticised for a fair amount of complacence and negligence as illustrated by the 2017 Gorakhpur hospital case where a significant number of children died due to lack of piped oxygen supply.

Moreover, delayed treatment due to long waiting time at public hospitals often pushes people towards private hospitals where they typically bear additional costs for having access to better technology infrastructure, more trained medical personnel and better clinical outcomes.

Due to the lack of insurance coverage, people are forced to take medical loans, often with high interest rates. This puts them in perpetual debt. The most critical obstacle between the cure and the patient is usually lack of funds. Medical crowdfunding is a healthy option in this scenario for it enables everyone to have a fair chance at being able to receive treatment, regardless of their socio-economic background, without having to worry about medical loans or lack of health insurance.

Complementing government schemes: Our government had allotted Rs 52,800 crore for the 2018-19 health budget. This is inadequate considering the rapid growth of health-related problems in our country. An estimated 38 million people have been inching closer to poverty every year, because of rising healthcare inflation at ~15%. The newly launched Ayushman Bharat Yojana (National Health Protection Scheme) has significant implementation challenges.

An allotted budget of only Rs 1,200 crore so far and its inadequacy to cover a lot of common procedures like transplants or surgeries that cost more than Rs 5 lakhs are just some of the challenges. This is why medical crowdfunding can save many lives by complementing any coverage or benefits that people may have under government welfare schemes.

Complementing health insurance plans: Only 20% of our population is backed by some kind of health insurance (NSSO). And those who have health insurance also struggle to pay medical bills because of high co-pay, deductibles, among other factors.

Only 15% of health insurance disbursements are above Rs 5 lakh. Today, most organ transplants or cancer-related surgeries could cost upwards of Rs 20 lakhs. This is why crowdfunding is a particularly relevant solution for middle class families, who often get little financial help from the government or NGOs.

With rising costs, economic inequity and lack of access to healthcare, more people are turning to crowdfunding every year. In fact, India’s private healthcare spend currently stands at Rs 6,60,000 crore a year, with merely a third being covered by insurance. The balance of Rs 4,40,000 crore is usually met using savings and support from friends and family.

Here, crowdfunding is disrupting a typically offline process using technology, social proof and the internet. As one of the most cost-effective and best patient financing solutions in the market today, crowdfunding is set to scale and help ease financial worries for India’s patients, and extend the best quality of care to them.

(The writer is CEO and co-founder, ImpactGuru.com)

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