Money and chronic illness. They just seem to go hand-in-hand don't they. I forever seem to be spending money on items, activities or travel to hospitals in order to best manage my health. The financial cost of chronic illness is steep, and perhaps those without health issues don't realise just how much money we spend . . .
So I decided to keep a log of how much money I spent on my chronic illness life in August. It was a rather 'light' month in terms of medical appointments, so that reduced costs, but I still spent more than I would have liked to!
The financial cost of chronic illness (and foregoing fun things)
This is a post that I was both intrigued to write, and rather scared of. Scared you ask? Well, yes, because I almost didn't want to know how much money I spend on my health that could be spent on other, far more fun, things.
Many of us spoonies have to go without, or limit, the number of more interesting things we do or buy because our money is spent on our health. There are the obvious things - insurance if you live in certain countries, medical appointments if you have to pay, prescriptions for medications etc.
But there are also other things that perhaps some don't realise. I'm thinking of supplements (often recommended by doctors), specialist foods to suit dietary requirements (such as low histamine or gluten-free), products to help manage pain or assistive devices for around the house.
How much I spent in August
I'm going to break this down into categories, to make it easier to understand. I also am aware that I am very fortunate to be in the UK and have the NHS, meaning I don't pay for appointments themselves (unless I choose to, or have to, go for a private appointment). I also don't pay for insurance. So my costs are likely lower than if I were living in the US for example.
Travel to medical appointments is very expensive for many of us. Whether you are driving, and so paying the cost of petrol / gas, parking, toll charges or congestion charges (for some cities such as London), or taking a train or bus, there is a big financial cost to just making to an appointment.
Key tip: schedule appointments for off-peak times if possible if using public transport to save a little (or a lot of) money!
One of the biggest outgoings for me is travel, as I usually have to take trains to medical appointments. My hospitals are mostly quite far away, often two hours commute, and it isn't always convenient to drive (would cost more with congestion charge, parking etc).
I can tell you I am often very thankful for phone or video appointments as it saves so much money!
- Train ticket to go to a medical test (that lasted 6 minutes!): £11.40
- Train ticket to go to a medical test: £8.30
- Train ticket to go to an appointment: £13.60
- Petrol to drive to a medical appointment: £5.00
Total cost for August: £38.30
Private medical appointment
I am hugely thankful for having the vast majority of my care on the NHS, and so don't pay 'extra' for appointments or tests (it comes through our taxes).
However, some more rare chronic conditions either aren't recognised as they should be, or there are very few doctors who specialise in the condition. For one of my conditions, mast cell activation syndrome, I have to see a specialist doctor (some 300 miles away!) on a private appointment basis.
This appointment was a phone call - saving me a lot of money in petrol. But come December I will be making the trip to have an in-person appointment, so that will cost a lot more.
Total cost for August: £150
NHS prescription card
For a long time I paid for each of my prescriptions and it was SO expensive. About £8 per medication at that time, and I had a number of medications each month. Then, thankfully, my pharmacist told me about the NHS prescription card, and it has been a huge money-saver for me.
The NHS card covers all your prescriptions (not private ones) and is very recommended if you have more than two regular prescriptions each month.
Total cost for August: £10.59
I am recommended to take several supplements by my doctors for migraine, MCAS and general health due to low levels (i.e. iron and vitamin D).
- Iron: my ferritin levels are on the low side, so I have to take supplements. The prescription ones cause me too many side-effects so I have to purchase the Solgar gentle iron myself, as this doesn't cause my tummy issues.
- Quercetin: for MCAS, this is known to be a mast cell stabiliser. I take two a day, and use the Solgar quercetin.
- Magnesium: I take this on and off for migraine if I am having a flare-up and for sleep / muscular issues. As far as I am aware I can't get this on prescription so I purchase the Solgar chelated magnesium.
- Vitamin D: my levels can go below 'sufficient' if I don't supplements. Tablets just don't work for me, so I have used the BetterYou vitamin D spray for many years, which is excellent.
Total cost for August: £59.24
*Note - always speak to your doctor before trying ANY new supplement.
Pain relief products
I was out of my trusted 4head Stick this month, so I purchased a new one at the pharmacy. I find it quite helpful for lower-level head pain, and it's so easy to use.
Painkillers, which are a necessity for many of us. I always buy the value ones as they are just as good as the more expensive brands (with the same ingredients).
Total cost: £8.09
It's kind of tricky to give an exact figure here. I have to follow a low histamine diet, so many foods are off-limits for me. I eat mostly whole foods so I know it is fresh and OK for me to eat. Thankfully I am able to eat a few 'processed' foods (saves time and let's face it, we all need some convenience food now and again on a difficult day) but that means searching out suitable brands and checking ingredients.
I'm going to put an extra £50 for the month here as I do feel I spend more for some foods as they are considered 'speciality' foods or are in the 'free from' range, which always seems more expensive.
Total cost for August: £50
The financial cost of chronic illness in August
The thing that shocked me this month was how high my 'bill' for chronic illness was, despite it being a very light month. Usually I go to far more medical appointments, which really pushes the cost up.
It is saddening to see how much chronic illness costs because, of course, we would all like to be spending our hard-earned money on much more exciting things.
I'm very aware, as already mentioned, that I am incredibly fortunate to have the NHS, and to not pay 'extra' for the majority of my healthcare in terms of appointments. I have friends in other countries who struggle to pay for their healthcare, often relying on family or even taking out loans to pay for vital surgeries.
One of the biggest ironies of course, is that many of us with chronic illness can't work full-time in order to easily pay for healthcare. Some cannot work at all and rely on meagre social security benefits or family help, or work part-time (often in less well-paid and more precarious employment). It feels like a bigger blow when we have to give a large percentage of the money we do have as income to manage our health.
The grand total for August: £316.22 (approximately $437)
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