By Khushboo Jain
For decades together, cancer has tormented the physical and mental health of patients as well as their families worldwide. While Covid-19 left a disastrous impact on public healthcare systems and world economies in its wake, it also created new challenges for cancer care in India. The Covid-19 lockdown made cancer patients apprehensive about stepping out of their homes for seeking medical consultation, which led to delayed diagnosis and lack of access to timely treatment.
A report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2020 revealed that the non-communicable disease – cancer – was projected to affect 1.5 million Indians by 2025. A greater cancer incidence is known to usually affect the senior population in India. However, cancer is slowly becoming prevalent among young adults as well, which is an extremely worrisome trend. Thankfully, due to advancements in the field of medicine, cancer is indeed curable and can be controlled if diagnosed early.
High cost of cancer and out of pocket expenditure
Battling cancer takes a huge toll on the physical state of a person. To make matters worse, the patient and their families are faced with another stern test – arranging funds for treatment.
As progress is being made in cancer treatments, the cost keeps increasing which makes the treatment unaffordable for more and more patients. The cost of cancer care can increase drastically depending on the stage of cancer and also the course of treatment. Treatments like bone marrow transplant, proton therapy and chemotherapy usually cross Rs 25 lakhs while other treatments such as CAR-T cell therapy can go up to crores.
The National Sample Survey conducted between 2017 and 2018 showed that over 80 percent Indians were not covered under any form of health insurance. Over the years, it has also been observed that patients with cancer and their families have mortgaged assets or become bankrupt trying to pay for costs associated with cancer care.
Cancer insurance plans
Cancer insurance plans have been gaining momentum in the recent past. To be eligible for cancer insurance however, the person insured cannot be previously treated or have any existing symptoms of cancer. Even when these conditions are met, insurance plans vary and may cover cancer treatments partially depending on a case-to-case basis.
Crowdfunding – A popular choice for cancer treatments
Crowdfunding is a low-cost, easy and viable healthcare financing option for those battling cancer. Crowdfunding can provide a huge relief to cancer patients and their families as it helps them raise funds online without the pressure of paying back the amount. Through crowdfunding, cancer patients can access quality treatments by starting an online campaign to receive funds from groups of well-wishers online.
Thousands of cancer patients have found crowdfunding as an effective way to pay off medical bills for cancer treatment. One instance that comes to mind is of a young engineer who was diagnosed with blood cancer a few years back. After exhausting all savings, his family started a fundraiser on an Indian crowdfunding platform which helped him get treatment on time. However, the young engineer’s cancer relapsed in 2020 which left his family in desperate need of funds again. They started another fundraiser which was met with unwavering support from kind donors. The amount raised for his treatment has crossed Rs 1 crore as of now.
There is no specified limit on raising of funds in crowdfunding as many platforms have raised crores of rupees for rare diseases like Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). More importantly, any patient can resort to crowdfunding irrespective of their cancer type, stage or history.
The added benefit of crowdfunding is that it can help raise funds for several other illnesses and also rare diseases like SMA, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), Gaucher’s and Pompe disease. Crowdfunding can help bridge the gap between expensive medical treatments for many Indians. It can prevent families from being pushed into poverty or debt while paying for such treatments.
The sole vision of medical crowdfunding platforms is to make healthcare affordable for all by lessening the financial burden on Indian families. Better awareness among cancer patients about crowdfunding as a financing option will be vital in our collective battle against cancer!
(The author is Co-Founder and COO, ImpactGuru.com. The article is for informational purposes only. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)