Rob Solomon, the CEO of crowdfunding site GoFundMe, has had his fill of seeing his site’s users get crushed by medical debt.
In a recent interview with Kaiser Health News, Solomon lamented the fact that roughly one-third of his site’s crowdfunding campaigns are for paying for expensive healthcare costs. A Forbes report from August 2018 estimated that GoFundMe users raise approximately $650 million each year just for healthcare-related campaigns.
The prominence of the medical category is the symptom of a broken system, according to CEO Rob Solomon, 51, who has a long tech résumé as an executive at places like Groupon and Yahoo. He said he never realized how hard it was for some people to pay their bills: “I needed to understand the gigantic gaps in the system.”
This year, Time Magazine named Solomon one of the 50 most influential people in health care.
“We didn’t build the platform to focus on medical expenses,” Solomon said. But it turned out, he said, to be one of those “categories of need” with which many people struggle.
In January, CBS listed just a few of the ongoing healthcare-related campaigns on GoFundMe in which Americans are depending on the kindness of strangers on the internet to help them pay for expensive, life-saving treatments. Among them were an eight-year-old boy who needed $15,000 for medication needed following a heart transplant (he’s currently raised more than $9,000) and a three-year-old girl who has raised more than $107,000 of her $175,000 goal to treat her rare form of brain cancer.
Kaiser asked Solomon about the fact that some hospitals recommend GoFundMe to patients as a way of raising the money necessary to cover their treatments.
“The system is terrible,” Solomon told Kaiser’s Rachel Bluth. “We shouldn’t be the solution to a complex set of systemic problems. They should be solved by the government working properly, and by health care companies working with their constituents.”
“We firmly believe that access to comprehensive health care is a right and things have to be fixed at the local, state and federal levels of government to make this a reality,” he added.
The most current universal healthcare legislation that’s been introduced is Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Washington) Medicare for All Act of 2019 (H.R. 1384). The bill has 106 Democratic co-sponsors, but no Republican support. The bill would need 112 more votes to pass. However, as Grit Post recently reported, 130 House Democrats not backing the bill have received more than $43 million in career campaign donations from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, endangering the bill’s possibility of passage.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.