Health Care Roulette

Antonia Malchik
4 min readSep 26, 2022

The GoFundMe-reliant meltdown of America’s health care system

Pile of U.S. dollar bills on a dark green background
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My younger sister recently had to launch a GoFundMe account to pay for an out-of-network surgery that, along with days of unpaid time off from her job, without help would drive her and her family deep under financial water, if not bankrupt them.

This isn’t a new story in American health care. GoFundMe is packed with fundraisers meant to cover surgeries, cutting edge treatments, and other medical costs.

The platform is well aware of its role in health care as well as other areas of basic survival. CEO Tim Cadogan wrote an op-ed in early 2021 essentially begging the U.S. Congress to do its job and support the American people with the tax dollars we all pay:

“We’ve known for years that most Americans don’t have $500 to spare to cover unexpected emergencies, like a car breakdown. Now, it’s as if their entire lives are breaking down again and again and again.”

He wrote about a “level of desperation” and the specific areas of food, monthly bills, and small business support that had seen a surge in fundraising requests over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fundraising platform also drew attention to the reliance on GoFundMe for health care costs in a Facebook post:

“We believe families shouldn’t have to fundraise to pay for their medical bills. We believe that 1 in 3 fundraisers on GoFundMe shouldn’t be for medical costs. We believe health care is a human right, not a privilege.”

And yet, like my sister, this is a situation that far too many families and individuals find themselves in. My sister and her husband work long hours at decent jobs but don’t have the kind of income that can cover an extensive, specialized surgery, much less cover the unpaid time off for recovery. Nobody in our family has ever had — or likely will ever have — a comfortable financial cushion or trust fund or the kind of income that can simply pay these costs.

Not many Americans do, but the point really is that we shouldn’t have to. Nobody should walk through life terrified of the costs of an emergency medical situation or a chronic medical condition.

Antonia Malchik

Antonia Malchik is the author of A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time; walking, tech, community, and embodiment.