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15 Unexpected Reasons It's Expensive to Be Chronically Ill

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Over 137 million Americans are dealing with medical debt in some shape or form. It’s no secret that it is expensive to be sick, especially when you are living with a chronic illness. However, it might surprise healthy people to learn that it’s not just the medical bills that make it so expensive to live with a chronic illness. When Western medicine falls short, some people turn to other means of treatment, oftentimes without help from their medical insurance. These expenses can come in the form of alternative medicine treatments such as acupuncture, supplements or therapy. Other times,  mobility aids, high-quality clothing and food threaten to break the bank. Perhaps, learning and adapting to the expenses that come with having a chronic illness is just another challenging part of the journey.

We asked the Mighty community on Facebook to share some “unexpected” reasons it’s expensive to be chronically ill. We want you to see through these responses that you are not alone in dealing with the financial strain that so frequently couples chronic illness — and hopefully, this list will also raise awareness among healthy people about the financial burden you face. While there are no easy solutions to this problem that most of us face, we hope that here at The Mighty you can always find a sense of support.

These were some of the answers our community shared. Let us know in the comments if you have any additional “unexpected expenses” to add. 

1. Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses

“Any kind of doctor’s visits because of our insurance costs over $400 a month but we have an $11,000 deductible.” — Amber G.

“Weekly doctor’s appointments… When budgeting, I have to include my co-payments for doctor’s appointments because I have to go so often.” — Heather J.

“The amount of money that I pay my doctors and the insurance company is unbelievable. I spend $5,000 to $10,000 a year on copays.” — Becky P.

“When you finally find a medication that helps only to discover it’s $500 a month.” — Jessica O.

2. Complimentary or Alternative Medicine

“The constant need for gadgets, items, and supplemental items to help you live a ‘normal’ life are another large expense.’” — Jen L.

“Many of the things that actually work for me are not covered by insurance (cupping, medical cannabis, supplements.) Basically, I spend a lot of money so I can be a ‘functioning’ sick person.” — Jen F.

“Epsom salt, lots of Epsom salt (to take baths to relax my muscles), essential oils, Icy Hot.” — Jolyssa T.

“Acupuncture is one of the only things that makes a difference in my fatigue, but it’s $80/treatment (without herbs) and I go weekly.” — Mary C.

3. Traveling to Medical Appointments

“Lots of money spent on gas driving to appointments every week, sometimes to specialists several hours away.” — Kristen K.

“Gas money because all my doctors are at least three hours away, as well as, hotels and meals for said trips.” — Kara H.

4. Higher Utility Bills

“My water bill because a hot bath is one of the few things that brings relief.” — Kara H.

“I need my home to be fairly cool all year round so I can function at all, which causes my air conditioning and electricity bills to skyrocket.” — Nicolette O.

5. Not Being Able to Work

“All of the doctor’s appointments and hospital visits take time away from my job, which means less money.” — Patricia G.

“Loss of income is the biggest ‘expense!’ No longer being able to work full or part-time is a definite burden.” — Heather M.

6. Mobility Aids

“The things to help my mobility such as stair rails, jar openers, shower stools, and special crutches because I have wrist, shoulder, and hip pain.” — Vikki J.

7. Adaptive Items

“There are many other things that we may need to do the little daily things that healthy people take for granted. Reachers, lightweight utensils, and plates, shower seats, easy to put on shoes, braces, compression wear, etc.” — Lori Z.

“Kitchen appliances. If you’re trying to remain more independent but struggle with cooking you’re more likely to need things like electronic can openers, instant pot, and microwave tools. Even pans that are lighter so you can lift them. Sure they are convenient for others but for people with chronic illnesses it makes cooking possible.” — Kaylla S.

8. High-Quality Clothing

“Something healthy people don’t think of… Clothing that you can actually tolerate on your body. It costs more and is hard to find!” — Crystal A.

9. Personal Care Products

“Anything that touches your skin. My skin became ridiculously sensitive overnight it seemed. Not only did I have to replace all lotions, body washes, deodorants, and makeup to more expensive and not found in stores items, I also had to replace a lot of my clothing because it made me nauseous to touch, gave a rash, or was too tight now.” — Kaylla S.

“It seems trivial, but hand sanitizer. Most people might have a small bottle in their bag, but for some of us, particularly those on medication that suppress their immune system, we have bottles of it everywhere. I have a bottle on my end table, near the kitchen, in my purse, in my crochet bag, and in the car.” — Chrissy T.

10. Rideshares and Public Transportation

“Rideshares. Due to unexpected brain fog, poor sleep, or general pain, I can’t always catch my bus to be on time for work. It doesn’t matter how prepared I try to be. If I miss the bus, I have to order an Uber or a Lyft so I can get to work on time.” — Quinn P.

“I often have to take a taxi, instead of buses and trains around town and to appointments, so I don’t tire as quickly.” — Sylvania H.

“If my husband can’t take off work to drive me to an appointment, I have to Uber. One of the specialists I see frequently is an hour away, that is $100+ round trip!” — Kathy C.

11. Grocery Delivery Services

“If my disease is really acting up, I purchase a lot more prepared foods or take-out which is more expensive. I also opt to pay for a grocery pick-up service to save spoons.” — Cassandra C.

“Having to have food delivered because you have no energy to go grocery shopping or cook.” — Jess M.

“Getting everything delivered. Everything.” — Kris T.

12. High Quality Food

“My diet. I really have to watch what I eat, and get the highest quality foods that I can realistically afford. If I let my diet slip everything health-wise starts to flare.” — Megan D.

“It gets expensive because I’m told to follow different diets and then find out I can’t eat what they wanted me to have. So I have to buy special food separate from my family.” — Lisa S.

13. Hiring Help for Chores Around the House

All of my energy goes to working and caring for myself. There’s nothing left for cleaning, so I have to hire someone to do it for me. I feel both guilty for using and grateful for having the service. I feel like I should be able to do something simple like mopping my floors.” — Patricia G.

“The kids I have to pay to snow blow my driveway when the snow is really bad as well as the guy I have to pay to mow my lawn and almost beg to rake my leaves after mowing season.” — Hunter R.

14. Losing Relationships

The loss of friendship as there’s no price can be placed on that. With several chronic illnesses, it’s shown me that friendship is fickle and cheap.” — Paula P.

“The friendships that I lose and am unable to re-gain because of how my health affects my life and my mentality.” — Hunter R.

15. The Mental Toll of Chronic Illness

“The worst expense is mourning the life you had or thought you would have had.” — Lara B.

“The emotional expense and labor that goes into doing your best to improve yourself both physically and emotionally.” — Stephanie P.

“The most expensive and important thing you lose is yourself… there is no price tag for quality of life.” — Carlie C.

Originally published: February 13, 2020
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