The Economics of Illness
Being sick is expensive. Being chronically sick is extra expensive, because it never ends.
Among the many parts of being sick that I often think about when I’m thinking “damn, this is unfair,” that’s honestly what I think about the most. Being sick is exorbitantly, life-ruining-ly expensive.
There are the typical costs that everyone probably associates with an illness–– hospital visits, fancy new medications, procedures and CT scans. Thanks to insurance (LITERALLY thanks, Obama) these costs are seriously lowered, but “lowered” from their crazy high initial costs still comes out to “too much money for a 24-year-old with student loan debt.” I think that’s the technical total on my last hospital bill.
Those are what we call the direct costs. It’s estimated that the average patient with Crohn’s pays about $18,000 per year in direct costs. Basically, if I didn’t have Crohn’s I could take the money I saved and buy a brand new Volkswagon Jetta every year for the rest of my life. I would love a goddamn Jetta.
But that’s just direct costs–– this doesn’t include the many other things the chronically ill drop cash on. Here’s a quick rundown of (usually expensive) alternative treatments and things that help ease the pain: essential oils, Epsom salts, icy hot patches and creams, heating pads, special health foods, supplements, acupuncture treatments, therapy, etc. Every human with an Instagram these days seems to be trying to sell me a protein shake or a cookbook that will cure me. But the thing is, a lot of times when you’re sick, you’ll try anything that just might make you feel better. And that keeps racking up your costs.
At the end of the day, sick people are dropping fatty cash trying to get to the minimum level of functioning at healthy people wake up with every day.
I plan for my future knowing that while my peers will be making car payments and whittling down their student loans, I’ll be doing all of those things plus trying to pay to keep my Crohn’s at bay. Chronic illness is like having a really shitty extra monthly utility bill that you didn’t ask for, but instead of giving you A/C, it keeps you alive. That’s one of the reasons I’m a politically active person–– it’s easy to think that things like health insurance don’t matter all that much until you’re the one who needs help. It’s easy to think your vote doesn’t matter when you’re healthy, but for people like me, laws like those that make it illegal for companies to discriminate against pre-existing conditions are of phenomenal importance.
If I don’t have insurance, I can’t get my medication. If I can’t get my medication, my body stops tolerating food. If I can’t eat, I can’t live and work and be a functioning member of society.
So when it comes down to it, it’s not just impersonal dollars and cents and figures presented in pretty charts on MSNBC. It’s people like me, working and saving and buying kombucha.