Insurance and health policies aside, medical crowdfunding is saving lives in India

Insurance and health policies aside, medical crowdfunding is saving lives in India

It takes a simple Google search to show you the ailing healthcare system of India. According to World Bank statistics, there are 0.5 beds per 1000 people and 0.2 doctors per 1000 patients in our country. A 2014 study shows that the average cost of hospitalization in urban India is Rs. 24, 436, an increase of 176% since 2004. Where public healthcare is failing massively to provide adequate treatment or even provide enough space for the number of patients coming through its doors, private healthcare is stepping up to help with latest technology, talented doctors and adequate care – but at a cost more than 60% Indians can’t afford. Medical crowdfunding in India is helping where policies and insurances are failing, in covering heavy medical costs.

The rising costs of Indian healthcare has left many without treatment and has pushed middle-income households below the poverty line. Private healthcare costs four times more yet around 70% of the population still prefers to get admitted to a private hospital where they are ensured better attention and treatment. The problem arises with arranging for funds.

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Despite various appeals for a Universal Health Coverage that would help reduce the financial burden on families, the government has been unable to enforce any health policy except lowering prices of treatments at public hospitals. India’s progress towards making good health a fundamental right has been excruciatingly slow. Medical insurance is also failing at helping people, who see it more as a luxury rather than a necessity. More than 80% don’t have an insurance and even those who do get less than Rs. 3 lakhs, which in critical cases like transplants and cancer doesn’t even cover half of the costs. Most families have to drain their life’s savings and even sell their jewellery and property to pay for a loved one’s treatment – and even then they still fall short of lakhs.

When a 17-year-old Rushikesh’s cancer relapsed, his family was hardly prepared for the expenses. They had already spent a fortune on chemotherapy and were advised to get a bone marrow transplant which would cost 40 lakhs! A Bone Marrow Transplant is one of the costliest treatments simply because very few hospitals in the country have the right resources to go through with it. “There are a very few recognized Medical Institutes in India who have the necessary infrastructure and the expertise to provide paediatric transplant surgery under the able care of competent medical professionals,” says Rushikesh’s father. But, like many other patients, Rushikesh’s father turned to medical crowdfunding to raise funds from family, friends and his outer network to save his son’s life.

Medical fundraising in India is picking up rapidly with patients raising lakhs of rupees in weeks for their treatments. In fact, India is soon becoming a hub for medical crowdfunding as patients and their families, finding no other refuge, are turning to the internet for help. Take Harish Rohra, for example, Harish was battling kidney failure for years. He was saving in bits from his humble salary to get a transplant and was surviving on dialysis. But as fate had it, his daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease and needed an urgent liver transplant to survive. Harish used up his savings to treat his daughter and was left with no other resources to help his own treatment. Until, he heard of medical crowdfunding from a friend. He started a fundraiser on Impact Guru and was able to raise more than 8 lakhs and fund the complete cost of his treatment. He is now healthy and well, without any financial burden. Had it not been for medical fundraising, he would have had to take a loan or delay his surgery by years.

Crowdfunding platforms in India, that initially focused on NGOs and creative causes, have shifted their focus to medical patients after seeing the massive numbers who are in need. “Initially, we received 10 – 12 medical fundraiser in a month, that number has increased drastically in the past year. Now 70% of the fundraisers on our platform are for medical costs,” says Khushboo Jain, co-founder of Impact Guru, India’s largest medical crowdfunding platform that has been able to help over 10,000 patients so far through medical fundraising.

With a little help from the government and even effort from non-profits, patients in need are finding solution in the kindness of friends and strangers. While only better health policies and subsidized health care can solve the problem of unaffordable healthcare in India, for now, medical crowdfunding is floating the boat by saving as many lives as it can.

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