Money and Chronic Illness

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni
6 min readNov 2, 2020

Chronic illness seriously complicates the role money plays in our lives.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

In my July post, “Reimagine Work,” I wrote the following:

“A 2019 study noted that approximately 530,000 bankruptcies are filed annually in the U.S. because of “debt accrued due to a medical illness.” That is almost 4% of the U.S. chronic illness population.”

It is no secret that people in the U.S. are crushed by gargantuan healthcare costs. Knowing these costs — even if you are fortunate to have insurance — makes people think twice about dialing 9–1–1 for an ambulance or scheduling a doctor’s appointment when a new symptom emerges. These decisions are amplified when you have a chronic illness and need more consistent care to maintain a functional standard of living or, in some cases, life-saving treatment.

That’s why the subject of affordability is only a thread in the larger conversation that needs to be had about money and the uncertainty of chronic illness.

A hard pill to swallow

Since my diagnosis in 2017, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how easily chronic illness can bankrupt a person. Every time I review my doctor or pharmacy receipts, I can see what the total, uncensored price of treatment would be without insurance, and I’m left dumbfounded.

I have read and seen more stories than I would’ve liked about people living with my condition, trigeminal neuralgia, and receiving medical bills worth thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars.

It isn’t hard to understand how and why such staggering numbers can cause stress, which — let’s face it — only makes the chronically ill sicker.

Every doctor’s visit, every lab test, every MRI, every prescription medication — it all adds up to a catastrophic amount that undeniably makes the financial toll of chronic illness a hard pill to swallow, especially if illness is a part of your life for the foreseeable future.

Necessary healthcare

Money is a polarizing subject, but moreso when you live with chronic illness. There are aspects of any illness that makes work and the earning of money a depleting ask. But the catch-22 is that without a job — or a partner or family…



Nisha Kumar Kulkarni

freelance writer & editor | writing coach | chronic illness advocate