FTC Goes After Crowdfunding Fraud – How HEALfundr is Immune

In previous blog posts, we have detailed a relatively new method for fundraising for medical expenses called crowdfunding along with our own crowdfunding platform, HEALfundr. Recently, there has been some news regarding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a crowdfunding project that made us want to touch upon some key differences between HEALfundr and other crowdfunding platforms.

 

This month, the FTC formally charged the creator of a Kickstarter campaign with deception by spending crowd-raised funds on himself and unrelated projects instead of the board game represented in his campaign. Using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, intended for creative or entrepreneurial projects, the creator raised over $122,000 from 1,246 backers who hoped to receive the board game in return for their pledges. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection found that the creator spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses and licenses for a different project. The order imposes a $111,793.71 refund to those who pledged, but the judgment is suspended due to the creator’s inability to pay.

DonationThis kind of development can raise a lot of red flags for donors to crowdfunding campaigns. No one wants to be defrauded out of their money, whether they are investing in a product or supporting someone they believe is in need. Fortunately, NeedyMeds has taken precautions to ensure that no one is at risk of being taken advantage of on HEALfundr.

 

HEALfundr is the only crowdfunding platform that verifies all campaigns. Crowdfunding for exclusively medical expenses, we require supporting documents—such as a letter from a doctor—corroborating the asserted diagnosis and need for assistance before accepting and launching each campaign. The funds raised through HEALfundr are then paid directly to the medical bills submitted by the campaigner, so there is never any need to worry that money is not being spent the way detailed in the campaign.

 

HEALfundr was designed with these concerns in mind. Our vision for HEALfundr has always been one of secure, 100% verified campaigns where funds are paid directly to legitimate medical expenses. We strive to grant patients in need relief from managing their medical bills and give donors the confidence that their donations is going where it is needed.

 

For more information, watch our previously recorded webinar, visit the site, or contact Project Manager Evan O’Connor.

National Men’s Health Week

Last month, we had National Women’s Health Week. For the month of June there is Men’s Health Week, designed to encourage men to make their health a priority. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has many tips for men to improve their health, and we at NeedyMeds have resources for a number of conditions that predominantly affect men.

 

Men's Health WeekThe CDC offers many ways to observe National Men’s Health Week, such as taking a bike ride, aim to eat healthier, or quit unhealthy habits.  Men can improve their health by getting a good night’s sleep, quitting tobacco and avoiding second hand smoke, being more active in daily life, eating healthier, and managing stress. Being aware of your own health is important as well. Be sure to see your doctor for regular check-ups and get tested for diseases and conditions that may not have symptoms until there is an imminent health risk. Testicular and prostate cancers are easily detected with regular checks.

 

In a previous blog post we featured the Men’s Health Network, a non-profit organization that educates men on health risks and what they can do to live a longer healthier life. They have lots of information, their own blog, a Men’s Health Library providing access to government and private sector publications that pertain to health and gender issues, and a resource center with helpful infographics and an A-Z men’s health guide.

 

NeedyMeds has information for many programs and clinics that offer assistance to men in need. There are several organizations offering varying kinds of assistance to men with prostate cancer in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of our website. There are also free or low-cost clinics that offer men’s health services. Search your local area on our website and look for “Men’s Health” listed with Services. If you need any help navigating the site, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Resources for National Scleroderma Awareness Month

June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month, meant to raise understanding of the chronic autoimmune disease. Scleroderma attacks a patient’s connective tissue with one’s own immune system.  First diagnosed in 1754, scleroderma affects women, men, and children. An estimated 300,000 people in the United States have scleroderma. For many, it can be a life-threatening disease. There is no known cause or cure.

scleroderma ribbonSymptoms of scleroderma include the tightening, swelling, stiffness, or pain in fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face; puffy or discolored skin; and fatigue or feeling tired. Fingers and toes may react strongly to cold, appearing white and hurt, as well as red spots or ulcers on affected joints and areas. Scleroderma can also affect internal organs—occurring in roughly a one-third of cases—causing shortness of breath or problems digesting food, including heartburn, trouble swallowing, or food moving slower than usual through your system.  The symptoms vary greatly for each person, and can all range from mild to severe. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, be sure to consult a doctor.

Though life-threatening, the five-year survival rate of scleroderma patients is encouraging at 85%.  Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 30-50. While there is no known cause, scleroderma is not contagious. Research into causes or a cure for the autoimmune disease continues, with stem cell transplants a recent area of trial.

For scleroderma patients, there are means of assistance available.  NeedyMeds’ Disease Information Page for scleroderma has information on patient assistance programs (PAPs) for commonly prescribed medications and selected links to the Scleroderma Foundation. There are national diagnosis-based assistance programs offering various forms of help to scleroderma patients in need, including access to clinical trials and financial relief.  There are additional diagnosis-based assistance programs available on our Chronic, Serious, or Life Threatening Illness and Autoimmune Diseases pages.

More Americans Spending $100,000+ on Medications

More than half a million Americans had prescription costs over $50,000 in 2014—a 63% increase from the previous year. The increase is associated with doctors prescribing more expensive specialty drugs for diseases such as cancer or hepatitis C. The increase of American patients spending over $100,000 has nearly tripled from 47,000 in 2013 to an estimated 139,000 Americans in 2014.

 

file4891296929150There are many details in the report done by Express Scripts, the largest US pharmacy benefit manager. About 60% of patients spending over $100,000 were prescribed at least 10 medications, and 72% had scripts written by at least four different prescribers. The highest increases in costs are related to expensive new hepatitis C cures being introduced, with the number of patients receiving treatment for hep C increasing 733% in 2014. Of Americans spending over $100,000, 32% were taking cancer medications—several of which were approved in recent years. Some of the new drugs for hepatitis and cancer can cost upwards of $90,000 alone. Anti-depressants are among the most widely prescribed specialty medicines.

 

Health insurance covered an average of 97% of patients prescribed at least $50,000 worth of medications in 2014. By contrast, patients with less than $1000 in prescription costs paid up to 35% of the cost out-of-pocket. The report looked at prescription drug claims of 31.5 million Americans with commercial health insurance or coverage through a federal or state program.

 

The growth of patient populations threatens the affordability of medical coverage for patients. If one is uninsured, the likelihood of covering similar expenses can be very slim. For those facing high prescription costs, NeedyMeds offers our Drug Discount Card (also available as a smartphone app) as well as information on pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) that may provide medications at low- or no-cost.  Go to NeedyMeds.org or call our toll-free helpline at 800-503-6897.

Affordable Care Act Helps Americans Ages 50-64

50-64 Uninsured Rates 2014

In the past five years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there have been strong supporters and fierce opponents.  No matter what side of the ACA one falls, it’s hard to deny the positive results it has had in some people’s lives. Since 2013, uninsured rate dropped by 31% among Americans ages 50-64.

 

Elderly Americans are among the most underserved populations in the country, and are at risk of struggling with poverty and disparity in health care.  The ACA expanded access to health insurance coverage to 50- to 64-year-olds through several provisions, including expanding eligibility for Medicaid, subsidies for consumers purchasing coverage through the new health insurance Marketplaces, prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher rates based on medical history, and restricting how much insurers can increase premiums for older consumers.  Prior to the ACA this age group often went without access to health insurance due to high costs, denials based on pre-existing conditions, and limited Medicaid eligibility.

Between December 2013 and December 2014, uninsured rates dropped from 11.6% to 8% among Americans 50- to 64-years-old—nearly a third.

50-64 Medicaid Expansion

In the 27 states that expanded Medicaid, the number is closer to half with 9.8% uninsured dropping to 5.5%. States that did not expand Medicaid also saw a drop in uninsured rates among 50-64 year olds, though not nearly as high by comparison to states that did expand and below the national average. The percentage of 50-64 year olds on Medicaid in states that expanded their programs increased from 6.5% to 10.8% between December 2013 and December 2014. Medicaid coverage in states that did not expand increased, but not by a statistically significant amount (0.5%).

There have been a lot of changes and developments since our first blog post on the Affordable Care Act.  Health care reform continues to grow, and the results are being seen in the improvements in people’s ability to access affordable health care. With the results from the last ACA open enrollment yet to be seen, we hope to see that uninsured rates continue to drop for all Americans in any underserved demographic.

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