"I think a lot of people have story fatigue, says Amy O'Leary, editorial director of Upworthy, which often features crowdfunding campaigns. "At this point in human history, we see more stories every day than any generation ever before, so I think it's a real challenge. There's compassion fatigue, especially when seeing the same kind of stories over and over again. Sort of the same principles for really great story telling apply to how you get people to care about an issue: vivid details, and a character that's relatable that you can come to care about through story."

While it's undeniable that crowdfunding has saved many lives, it's hard not to wonder how we got here, and whether this new piecemeal health care workaround brings other types of ingrained biases. Two recent studies have found that race plays a role in the success of crowdfunding projects, although those focused on the more entrepreneurial and equity side of services like Kickstarter.

"I think it's unfortunate we have a healthcare system where people need to do this," Harvard's Jena says. But, he adds, even in countries with socialized medicine, people still need extra money for health care. "If you're in the UK, which has a national health service, there may not be access to certain treatments that are too expensive to be provided by the federal government, so people may crowdsource funds to come to the U.S."

Among reporters who have covered campaigns like these for years, the entire operation can seem especially perverse. Hudson Hongo, an editor at Gizmodo who's covered the phenomenon of viral stories, says the decision about whether to feature a crowdfunding story often hinges on the individual's social capital. "Local indie legend needs transplant, or whatever," he says.

In the absence of another viable alternative, Hongo is sucked into the piecemeal health care lottery game as much as the rest of us, governed by our own whims and biases. "Last week I gave to an acquaintance from back home for a medical recovery crowdfunding thing because I like him. But it's not like assholes deserve to not be ruined by medical problems."

Stephen Bramucci, an editor at Uproxx, says he hopes he applies a different standard to life or death stories. If he were considering covering a story about someone crowdfunding to travel the world, something he sees a lot of as a food and travel editor, he'd ask: Is there a good hook? Do they have a strong sense of their brand? Are there good photos? Will they give a good soundbite?

"With travel the concern is always the same: They get funded super-quick when it's a really hot couple we can relate to in some degree and we want to see them posting pictures on Instagram of each other's butts. If you're holding people's health to that standard it's really fucking scary."

"What if it's some [old sick] guy who doesn't have a daughter who's a good writer?" Bramucci says. "I'm an editor and I get pulled in because it's someone who can tell a story. That means this guy doesn't get funded? It's a fucking minefield."

And what happens to the people too shy, or attention averse, to share the intimate photos of their physical suffering? Upworthy's O'Leary was reminded of a hugely popular story her site covered a couple years ago about a young man who'd had lap-band surgery, but now lived with excessive loose skin. "What was remarkable about it was he took pictures of himself and showed everybody what it was," she says. "Once he saw his story was picking up viral steam, there was a crowdfund that started. He was so open and vulnerable by sharing those photos I think people were moved."

Abby Ohlheiser, who covers digital culture for the Washington Post, says she tends to write about campaigns that have already gone viral, or have a large potential audience looking for them because they're already part of a larger news story. "I do see these campaigns shared into my own various social media feeds at a sobering pace," she says. "And when I see a celebrity retweet or share one of these campaigns, it makes me wonder how many equally deserving requests for a signal boost like that were missed."

Chapman and the other sites' representatives agree that, yes, ideally they wouldn't have to exist, but even with a healthcare system that covered everything, there are still many related costs that crop up.

Chapman and the other sites' representatives agree that ideally they wouldn't have to exist, but say that even with a health-care system that covered everything, people will never stop needing funding in times of poor health. Nonetheless, it's tempting to see the pawning off of caring for citizens onto others' charitable impulses as keeping with Republicans' gutting services for the poor and needy while justifying it by saying they also give at church.

"Given the current political environment, we've definitely seen a lot of apprehension and fear of what is going to happen in the coming months and years," Boland says. "There are a lot of treatments that aren't covered by insurance, a lot of experimental treatments that people want to try so only crowdfunding can help them. But we are definitely seeing people who are a little apprehensive."

Both times she appeared on television, Kati McFarland explained her thoughts on the Affordable Care Act. It isn't perfect, she said, but it saved her life by keeping her coverage despite her condition. But she's uncertain about what's going to happen down the line: even with the ACA's provisions remaining in place, her costs of coverage are almost insurmountable.

"It's so sad I have to come on these things and spend time talking about the issue saying 'go to my fundraiser' because that's what we have to do in this country, and that's abhorrent to me," she says. "I know people think socialized medicine, that's a nasty word, but if that was the case we wouldn't have to do this. If they spent a fraction of what they spend on the military on the ACA—not even socialized medicine—then the premiums wouldn't be high, it wouldn't be the mess it is now."

She read a funny joke on Tumblr the other day. "It was something like, 'What if we put in a GoFundMe for everyone's health care all at once, and everybody in the country paid for it, and the money it raised went to help everyone?'"