SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It started as a way for new businesses and artists to raise money to get their projects off the ground. Now crowdfunding is being used by medical patients to pay for their expenses.

Covering health costs or items related to health care are now the fastest-growing type of appeal.

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Michelle Turner, a single mom battling breast cancer, made a public appeal for money on Go Fund Me asking for help paying her rent and medical expenses while she underwent treatment. “Within 15 minutes of posting on the site, there was a response,” said Turner.

Similarly, Maria Joffrian used money raised on Go Fund Me to buy a new van to transport her son to medical treatments. Joffrian said the money will absolutely help.

Go Fund Me’s founder Brad Damphousse said, “Never before has there been an easier way to raise money for the things that matter to you.”

According to Damphouse, some people try to cheat the system with phony appeals, but most get ferreted out quickly. He said, “When you’re crowd funding online, you have a lot of visitors coming to your page and often the wisdom of the crowd can exceed that of the individual.”

Public health professor Alan Sagar said perhaps patients who are more photogenic and who are members of some racial and ethnic groups may be more likely to draw money than patients who are members of other groups.

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Some experts worry about the issue of privacy. Experts say posting a public plea for help may come back to hurt people. Go Fund Me’s solution is to give users the option of keeping their appeals private by only letting people they know see them.

Damphouse, the site’s founder said, “Much of the activity on Go Fund Me is actually private and hidden from public view.”

With medical costs rising and co-pays declining, Sagar said many people with illnesses these days need all the help they can get. “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” said Dr. Sagar.

Although Go Fund Me may not be the solution, for Michelle Turner it was a huge help. “It means so much and has shown me this web of support that’s there in the universe to help people,” said Turner.

Go Fund Me gets five percent off the top of every donation. Payment processing costs an additional three percent. The money is not tax-deductible, unlike funds given to a charity.

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