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Americans crowdsourcing for medical bills skyrocketed last decade: RPT

Yahoo Finance's Adriana Belmonte joins Kristin Myers to break down a new study highlighting the rising rate of U.S. medical bills being funded by crowdsourcing.

Video Transcript

- Now, many Americans over the past decade are turning to crowdsourcing to pay for their medical bills. We have Yahoo Finance's Adriana Belmonte joining us with that report now. Hey, Adriana. How are you?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: I'm good. I'm good. But I have a sad report here.

- Very sad, indeed. Tell us what's in that survey.

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Yeah, so it's a JAMA study-- "Journal of the American Medical Association." And they found that between May 2010 and December 2018 over $10.3 billion was sought for medical expenses through the crowdfunding site, Go Fund Me, which is just crazy numbers.

- We're seeing here 26.7% of GoFundMe fundraisers were created to cover health care related costs. I'm wondering what costs, specifically, in terms of health care were being fundraised for? What kind of medical ailments?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Yeah, so cancer was the leading cause, which as you know, that can be long treatments. Just a long process in general. And then the second most common reason was for trauma and injury, which kind of underscores how unexpected medical costs can really be a growing issue for people-- something they're not prepared for. Rising premiums adding to that as well. They're just not ready for a major cost like that.

- OK. So we have a graph on the screen right now that everyone can see. And it feels as if this crowdsource fundraising for medical expenses is just exponentially increasing throughout the years. The leap between 2017 and 2018 is huge. Is there something that was going on there in that year? Do you anticipate-- I know this survey ended in 2018. But do you think that this is a trend that probably continued in 2019 and then again last year in 2020 during this pandemic?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: I mean, I wouldn't be surprised because every single year health care expenditures have increased. I mean, I don't think they've decreased at all over the last decade as far as my research has taken me. I just-- the one thing that really stood out to me was there were 42 fundraisers on the site in 2010. And then in 2018, there were over 119,000, which I mean, the percentage difference there is just wild. $717,000 collectively saw in 2010. 2018 was over $4.7 billion. I mean, just mind blowing.

- You know when I was reading this, I feel like we always get these headlines about how some celebrity or some wealthy person is giving money to folks to help them pay for their bills. And I think really the commentary should be on how sad it is that we even need this. What's happening politically to address something like this?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Well, I reached out to Senator Bernie Sanders because he's been very outspoken on this issue before. And he actually got back to me with a statement. He said, "it is an absolute moral outrage that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, our people are forced to hold online fundraisers amounting to billions of dollars just to get the medical care they need to stay alive. The time is long overdue for America to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care as a human right for all."

So he's kind of tying it back to his push for Medicare for all, universal health care. But you know, he brought up some good points here. We have all this money and yet people are still struggling to get basic needs met.

- All right. Absolutely sad indeed. And I believe that that piece is on yahoofinance.com for anyone who wants to read into your reporting on parsing that survey. Thanks so much Adriana Belmonte.

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Thank you.