Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Jokes about how GoFundMe is becoming an integral part of our insane health insurance system are no longer funny," wrote Dan Riffle. (Photo: AP)

Hospital Letter Urging Patient to Start 'Fundraising Effort' to Pay for Heart Treatment Seen as Yet Another Reason America Needs Medicare for All

"'You can't have a heart unless you do GoFundMe for 10K' is not a just system."

Jake Johnson, staff writer

As progressive lawmakers and healthcare experts have frequently pointed out in recent months, few growing trends have laid bare the fundamental immorality and brokenness of America's healthcare system quite like the rise of GoFundMe and other crowdfunding platforms as methods of raising money for life-saving medical treatments that—due to insurance industry greed and dysfunction—are far too expensive for anyone but the very wealthiest to afford.

"Insurance groups are recommending GoFundMe as official policy—where customers can die if they can't raise the goal in time—but sure, single-payer healthcare is unreasonable."
—Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Providing the latest example of this horrifying trend, a Michigan woman seeking a heart transplant publicized a letter she received from the Spectrum Health Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Clinic—named after the late father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—informing her that she is "not a candidate" for the procedure "at this time" because she needs a "more secure financial plan" to afford the required post-operation immunosuppressive medication.

The letter goes on to explicitly recommend "a fundraising effort of $10,000" to help pay for the drugs.

Hedda Elizabeth Martin, who posted the letter on Facebook, wrote that her situation encapsulates America's "price gouging, horribly overpriced, underinsured system," which affects millions each day in the richest country on Earth.

The letter, which Martin received shortly before Thanksgiving, began to go viral on Saturday and quickly caught the attention of progressives like Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who identified Martin's situation as indicative of the broad failure of America's healthcare status quo—which produces tremendous profits for insurance and pharmaceutical giants and worse outcomes than the healthcare systems of other industrialized nations.

"Insurance groups are recommending GoFundMe as official policy—where customers can die if they can't raise the goal in time—but sure, single-payer healthcare is unreasonable," Ocasio-Cortez, an unabashed supporter of Medicare for All, wrote sarcastically.

"'You can't have a heart unless you do GoFundMe for 10K' is not a just system," concluded Pacific Standard columnist David Perry.

In her Facebook post, Martin—who has already completed one GoFundMe campaign related to her heart troubles—noted that she "will not be put on the transplant list until I fulfill a requirement of $10,000 set aside." (Update: Martin has started a new GoFundMe to help pay for her treatment.)

"Only when I have raised that required amount, will I then be 'reconsidered' for [a] heart transplant. Not automatically added to [the] list but reconsidered," she continued. "This is new."

Martin's letter from Spectrum Health comes at a time when a growing number of Americans and members of Congress believe that the current for-profit healthcare system should be replaced by Medicare for All, a system that would guarantee everyone coverage regardless of their ability to pay.

In addition, as Common Dreams reported, a Koch-funded study published earlier this year inadvertently found that Medicare for All would save the American public $2 trillion in healthcare costs over ten years while covering everybody.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'Bolsonaro Out!': Massive Protests as Brazil's Covid-19 Death Toll Tops 500,000

"We are on the street to defend our country, our people, our lives, our culture, our education, our economy. We can no longer die of Covid."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·