By Margaret Cornelius, Board Chair, Watsi | April 19th, 2023
Over a recent weekend with family, filled with doing laundry, preparing for the week ahead, and managing my trio of rambunctious children, I found myself with an unexpected and unwelcome situation: my primary care physician was moving to concierge medicine - meaning I would have to pay thousands of dollars a year out of my own pocket to continue under his care - and our family’s health insurance plan was being dropped from the pediatric group practice where we are frequent visitors (see the trio of rambunctious children above). While we are generally a healthy bunch, the prospect of not knowing who I would call if we needed to see a doctor, and not knowing exactly how I would pay if we needed care was pretty scary.
Unfortunately, in many places around the world, including the United States, the scenario described above is all too common. People cannot afford to access health care when they need it the most and may face unnecessary delays in accessing care or just as bad, end up taking on serious financial burdens to be able to pay for what they need. Whether for emergency surgery, a routine procedure, or even a visit to the family doctor, access to quality health care - a fundamental human right - is out of reach for far too many around the world.
To make sure that everyone has access to what they need, when they need it, and at a cost they can afford, many countries around the world are working towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC). In 2019, for the first time ever, country leaders committed to ensuring that by 2030, everyone in their country will receive the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. While these political commitments are more important than ever, we still face a reality where upwards of 2 billion people around the world simply cannot afford to access health care.
But there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, and even better, to be helpful. Watsi.org, a US-based nonprofit organization has created the first-ever crowdfunding platform that directly supports peoples’ access to health care. Watsi's mission - to make healthcare accessible for everyone - is incredibly ambitious, yet the impact model is simple: for every dollar given by an individual donor, a proportion of a patient’s medical procedure is directly covered. Watsi support offers a literal lifeline to families who face major hurdles in seeking the care they need, and to healthcare providers that are working to serve vulnerable communities that are often the hardest for the formal system to reach.
I have spent most of my professional life working on how to make the money issues around health care function better, from working for a health insurance company in the US right out of college, to working for various global health organizations and with Ministries of Health to find ways to achieve UHC. The problems are complex, and so are most of the solutions. Major health financing reforms take years if not decades to bring to fruition, and implementation is often far slower than anyone would like. Of the many things I love about Watsi, my favorite is knowing that 100% of my contribution will go immediately to support the patient whose care I am funding. While countries and the global community continue to work on all the reforms needed to achieve UHC by 2030 and beyond, I fully believe that organizations like Watsi are playing a critical role in helping patients today, in places where securing and protecting health coverage for everyone who needs it is still a long ways off.
As I navigated through all the insurance paperwork, passwords, toll-free numbers, and preferred provider organization websites over that scary weekend, a quick stop on Watsi.org was all I needed to help re-energize. I’m tremendously grateful for my family’s good health and mindful of how our circumstances are very distant from the experiences of many families around the world. Working with and supporting Watsi is an easy and meaningful way for me to narrow that distance, and know my support is truly helping someone in need.
The Watsi Team
Everyone deserves healthcare.