5 Ways Chronic Illnesses Cost More Money: The Chronic Illness Tax

5 Ways Chronic Illnesses Cost More Money: The Chronic Illness Tax

While Martkin Shkreli and Heather Bresch continue to make headlines, regular people struggle. You don’t need to buy Daraprim or an EpiPen to know that the cost of drugs, and healthcare in general, is prohibitive for too many Americans. It’s often called the chronic illness tax.

So, yes, let’s call out individuals for making disgusting salaries.

But let’s also remember that the system allows it, and it needs to be changed. Especially for people with chronic illness.

But we don’t just pay out the ass for daily meds, medical testing, and routine doctor visits. We also pay more than able-bodied people on items often taken for granted.


1. Convenience Foods

Remember when the internet was scandalized by Whole Foods and the already-peeled orange? People called the $6 food “the Ultimate in Bourgeois Laziness.”

But for someone with RA, for example, a peeled orange can be a healthy snack alternative. That it costs a chronically ill person $6 to acquire shows what sacrifices patients have to make to eat healthier.

If you’re generally healthy, you might grab this once in a rush to find something convenient on your way to soccer practice and not give it another thought. If you’re a fellow chronic, you would probably wince at the price tag.

What if you wanted to eat an orange every day? Or even once a week? It’s cost-prohibitive, that’s what.

2. Utility Bills

Fibromyalgia causes a host of problems for me, including extreme temperature sensitivity. That means keeping the house at a steady 70 °F throughout the summer. And believe me, I pay for that comfort when I get my Ameren Bill every month.

A small jump of just two degrees might save me some money on my bill and be better for the environment, but at what cost to my health? Sweating, headaches, increased blood pressure, and the inability to sleep.

Guess which option I’m going to choose as a chronic patient?

3. Pillows

Yes, pillows. The good ones cost absurd amounts of money; the affordable ones either cause more pain or fall flat so quickly you have to keep spending money to replace them.

It’s not a frivolous concern either. Sleep is important for everyone, and patients with chronic illnesses are no exception. Insomnia, poor sleep, and not enough sleep can intensify pain and impair the body’s ability to heal and restore itself.

4. Toilet Paper

I’m not going to get too graphic, but can we have a moment of silence for all the chronics who suffer from ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, IBS, and similar diseases and conditions?

If you’re going that frequently, that cheap institutional toilet paper is NOT an option. Don’t you dare suggest it.

5. New Clothes

And I’m not talking about getting the “essentials” from Vera Wang’s new Fall line. I’m talking about replacing clothes with items that fit our ever-changing sizes. (Weight loss and weight gain are prevalent symptoms, sometimes caused by chronic illnesses themselves, and sometimes a product of prescription drug side effects.)

As a person’s ability to dress herself deteriorates, there’s also a need to switch to clothes that are easier to put on. I’m talking front-closing bras, elastic-waisted dress pants, and shoes without laces, straps, or buckles.

This really just scratches the surface of the way patients with chronic conditions pay more for day-to-day living. Just something I hope more able-bodied people will consider as they try to understand what it’s like to be someone who will never again not be sick.

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