Being chronically ill is expensive – January total


In the first week of this year, a friend of mine posted on Facebook how much she’d already spent on her health.  She has severe RA and fibromyalgia and not a lot of quality of life. She does, however, have huge medical bills.  She posted that she was going to keep track of her out of pocket expenses for the month, as an experiment.

And I stopped and thought about it.  People very often tell me that health care is free for me.  They have no understanding of how expensive it is to be chronically ill.

To be fair, I live on disability and I have a health care card. Which does mean that I am very lucky, a lot of my expenses are covered or heavily subsidised by Medicare, compared to someone who doesn’t have a health card.  But the attitude I detect is often that I am a bludger, using services, getting free health care, and I look just fine.  I can’t possibly be that sick…

Only one person has said it to my face. But it has been heavily implied on many an occasion that I’m a great big drain on tax payer resources.  And I guess that is true.  But I still have huge medical bills every month.  Or they are most definitely huge in relation to my income, raising two teenagers living just above the poverty line.

So I decided to keep track of my out of pocket expenses too.  Even though the idea scared me just a little bit. Did I really want to know???  I’ve always seen medical expenses as just a necessity.  No use worrying about it, I just have to pay them.

Note:  out of pocket.  This is what I still have to pay, after I have been reimbursed by medicare, or my health insurance fund.

I DO have very good health insurance. I consider that a necessity when you have as many chronic conditions as I do.  I pay the premium every month, and I didn’t include that expense.

I don’t believe that’s a choice. I have to find that money.  I do take care of my own health as much as I can. I eat well, and I exercise as much as my body will allow.  I take responsibility for my health and I don’t expect a magic pill or a free ride.  This post is purely an informational one, not a complaint.  Purely the facts of what I still have to pay, out of pocket, even with all the benefits I receive.

So what is January’s total?  It’s a big number!

Firstly what does it include?  Prescription drugs and supplements. Not supplements I choose to take, supplements that have been prescribed because I have medical deficiencies, or they are required with the medication I take.

For example, I take methotrexate, and folic acid is a supplement that is prescribed along with that, to help with side effects.  It’s not a choice, its essential.  I’m not including supplements I choose try out, like curcumin capsules, or fish oil, or magnesium.

I’m also not including things like icy gel or heat rub.  Or heat packs. Or basic Panadol.  Those are just incidentals, although I find them fairly essential.

Included are doctor’s appointments, GPs, specialists.  Procedures, scans, lab work.

I did have a procedure this month, a colonscopy and endoscopy, so I had to pay my hospital excess. That was a few hundred dollars, but it’s a one off for the year.  So that inflated the total, and it certainly won’t happen every month.

I also DID have a lot of things bulk billed, for which I am very grateful. Three GP appointments, and a CT scan were completely free.  The system is very good here.  It does seem to be far cheaper to be chronically ill here in Australia than it is in the U.S., for example.

The highest expenses were for prescription medications.  Seems all my scripts were due at once.  So again, it just happened to be a really bad month.

So what was the magic total?


That’s more than my fortnightly disability pension.  Just for the record.  That’s the other impression people have, that disability is a whole lot of money.

It’s not.

I’m very grateful it exists though, and the money is there for chronically ill people like myself.  Very grateful.  But it certainly isn’t a lifestyle choice.  Not when I used to earn $85 an hour contracting in web programming.  Which I enjoyed. And I also enjoyed the very comfortable lifestyle that went along with it.

But those days are long gone. Obviously I would choose to be healthy and at work again.  Because I used to make $690 in a day!  So why anyone would think that I would choose this life, confined to my couch, is beyond me.  Maybe this post will be a little enlightening. So share it around.

It’s now a third of the way into February. And my total is sitting at $141.32.  I cancelled my dietitian today, because I just could not afford her $160 fee.  There isn’t enough money this fortnight for that.   And it’s not essential.

This month I will have lower expenses, but every month a high percentage of my income goes on medical expenses.  Just another aspect of being chronically ill that few people consider. The financial drain.

It is what it is. I have cut everything down to essential appointments. I save up my problems for my GP and go with a list to try to have fewer appointments.  (He loves my laundry lists)!  I don’t go looking for trouble.  But I do have to have my scripts renewed monthly, and monthly blood work done.  I don’t go looking for new diagnoses and new specialists.  But they do tend to happen. Autoimmune diseases travel in packs.  It’s just the way it is.

But ultimately I am very grateful that I live in a country where there is such a good health system.  If I were paying full price, there is no way that I could afford the medications and treatments I need.  Many others are not so lucky.  So as I look at that number – $690 – I do know that I am lucky.

But health care is NOT free.


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