I Can’t Afford to Be Sick — or Injured

September 16, 2011 in Diabetes, General, Health, Nutrition by Mary Ireland

I was astounded when I read the headline: "Lawyers say medical costs will top $50M for Giants fan who was beaten outside Dodger Stadium." Oh my goodness! I am amazed that one human body could require so much medical attention, nursing, medicine, equipment, rehabilitation, etc. to repair it. Thinking about these medical costs, made me think about medical costs in general - they are exorbitant. Even the co-pays and deductibles may cause you rethink your monthly budget, especially if you really have something wrong with you.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the national cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2007 exceeded $174 billion. This number is based on $116 billion in medical procedures related to diabetes and $58 billion in reduced national productivity. Other facts include:

  • A study by the American Diabetes Foundation found that in 2002, the average annual healthcare cost for a person with diabetes was $13,243 as opposed to $2,560 for a person without diabetes.
  • In the U.S. 10% of health care dollars go to diabetes treatment.
  • Indirect costs include loss of time on the job, reduced productivity and early death.

To look at dollars on a world-wide, country, state, or even local level can be numbing. An article in Diabetes Health brings the relevance of diabetes costs a little closer to home. The article includes comments from diabetics such as "My survival has come to rely on the kindness of others. Sometimes I have to choose to live without heat in the winter or electricity in order to afford my insulin and test strips. I wait for months and endless hours to attend the free clinic (which is overloaded with patients) and I haven't seen an endo in years because I can't afford it." A younger reader wrote, "I had to find a job so that I could pay for test strips, insulin, and syringes instead of new clothes and shoes like my friends." As I reported in the blog post Sugar Time, a study in The American Journal of Medicine found that 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical related.

The projections of escalating diabetes rates and escalating costs causes one to wonder if people who can't afford medical care will eventually be denied care, because the government just doesn't have the money. What will happen then? One day individuals could be forced to ... well, die... if we can't afford the huge cost of their medical care.

And these are just fiscal costs. It doesn't account for intangible costs such as lack of vitality, loss of independence, loss of vision, loss of limbs, loss of time spent in dialysis and the anxiety an depression that may occur because of these losses. Even though the financial ramifications of the disease have an impact on me, I am more motivated to avoid the physical ramifications. I want to enjoy my life, not endure one painful day after another, trying to cope with the complications of diabetes. I want to be healthy. And the thing about it is, it feels good to exercise, it feels good to eat healthy foods, it feels good to relax and relieve stress. To me living a healthy lifestyle is a win-win situation. Try it, you might like it.

Resource Note February 2015:  A new resource has come to our attention; it is an organization that serves those with diabetes and the dangerous additional challenges of alcohol and/or drug abuse, which can significantly accelerate adverse outcomes. The Coalition against Drug Abuse has considerable resources to not only identify, but in addition, to help avoid grave and at times life-threatening outcomes.