Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Cost of Chronic Illness

Even with good insurance, chronic illness is expensive.

My husband and I spend more than $5,000 per year on healthcare expenses (including what we pay for health insurance) just for the two of us. You can bet your bottom dollar that most of those expenses are for my healthcare.

I pay $99 per month ($1,188 annually) for my job sponsored health insurance (my company pays an additional and hefty $431 per month -$5,172 annually - on my behalf). My husband pays $77 per month ($924 annually) for his job sponsored health insurance (his company pays an additional $225 a month - $2,700 annually - on his behalf). The difference in cost between our plans is because my husband has a more economical plan since he is in good health and rarely needs to see a doctor.

The cost of my medications and treatments is truly unfortunate. I've never actually calculated how much everything is per year, but I would guess they easily cost over $2,000 annually (and I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually closer to $3,000). My husband's medications, on the other hand, come out to less than $300 per year. Every appointment with my regular doctor or a general practitioner is $25 and every appointment with a specialist is $35. Considering how often I visit "the doctor," $25 and $35 per visit adds up pretty quickly. I'm lucky that my insurance plan covers the cost of bloodwork and other diagnostic tests, often at no cost to me. My husband rarely goes to the doctor.

If our companies did not offer such good health insurance plans, we would really be in trouble. You don't even want to know how much all this would cost without insurance or if we were under insured.

But just for fun, let's guess.

Without insurance (or without a prescription plan), here are a few examples of how much a few of my prescriptions would cost:

Advair (three month supply): $571.65
Yaz (three month supply): $179.65
Generic Zoloft (three month supply): $92.88
Albuterol Inhaler (three month supply): $88.63
Generic Flonase (three month supply): $81.78

These medications already add up to more than $1,000, and we're not even looking at a complete list of everything I take.

Each of my visits to the doctor would easily cost $100 or more, and all the countless bloodtests I get would cost even more. Labwork is very expensive. Without insurance I would definitely not be able to afford the immunotherapy (allergy shots) I'm currently undergoing to help improve my quality of life. The cost of major tests or invasive procedures is even more frightening. My MRI cost me $35 with insurance, though my insurance company was billed over $2,500. My colonoscopy cost $35 with insurance; my insurance company was billed over $5,000.

Here's a real shocker. I just added up all the claims to my insurance company over the past 12 months (June 2008 to June 2009), and the total is $17,741.47!!!!! I wouldn't believe it if I didn't have my insurance information right in front of me. This number doesn't even include my husband's expenses, though his would not make as big an impact. It also doesn't include my prescription expenses.

I can't even imagine living with chronic illness and having no insurance or being under insured. I haven't even taken into account the cost of dental or eye care in this post. I really can't imagine living with chronic illness in a country with poor access to proper medical care. It would be a difficult way to live.

The US healthcare system needs to change. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how. I only know that I am not any more deserving of good healthcare and a decent quality of life than an hourly worker or an elderly person on a fixed income simply because I can afford it more easily. I am not taking sides or playing politics, I'm just pointing out a flaw in the system.

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