Medically Vulnerable Families Among Those Hit Hardest by Soaring Inflation

Deborah Lewis arose from her bed at dawn to sign in to her smartphone so she could start delivering groceries, fast food, and coffee to residents in the western Mojave Desert, where Chuck Yeager, a test pilot, broke the sound barrier many generations ago.

Lewis prayed that she would make $75 to pay for her Kia sedan. This would have enough fuel to get her daughter Annabelle, 8 years old, to Los Angeles, where she would receive weekly chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic Leukemia. The same tank of gas would’ve cost $30 a year ago.

The mother was able to make close to her needs after working a full shift as gig worker. “It took a lot longer than I thought,” she said.

Families across the country are suffering from high inflation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBolgraphics), inflation has reached epidemic proportions. prices in July were up 8.5% One of the largest increases in recent years compared to a year earlier. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, consumers are spending more. housing and utilities, food, and medical care.

Overall wages continue to climb, but after adjusting for the rising price of goods and services, workers’ paychecks declined 3.5% The past year. Recent KFF poll 74% of registered voters said that inflation, including rising gasoline prices, was their top concern.

For millions of families who live with chronic diseases — such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — or other debilitating conditions, inflation is proving a punishing scourge that could be harmful to their health. Unlike dining out less or buying fewer clothes, many patients don’t have a choice when it comes to paying for medicine, medical supplies, and other ancillary costs. Some patients have to travel long distances in order to see a specialist. Others must follow a strict diet.

“Chronic disease patients are usually on the front lines of seeing a lack of supplies or an increase in out-of-pocket costs,” said Paul Conway, chair of policy and global affairs for the American Association of Kidney Patients.

The cost of health care has become more prohibitive. Half of adults say they have had to use health care. difficulty paying their health costsKFF polling shows that this is the case. One-third of people say they or their family members have missed recommended medical treatment in recent years due to cost. Additionally, one-quarter of adults report that they have rationed pills or left prescriptions unfilled.

Inflation has made it harder for families to afford food and gas as well as medical supplies like needles, pads, and bed-wetting pads. Health care costs have risen 5.1% since July 2021, and medical commodities — which include prescription and over-the-counter drugs, medical equipment and supplies — are up 3.7%.

Inflation can be particularly harmful to the health and well-being of low-income patients. strong link between poverty and health. According to the California Budget & Policy Center, more than half of California households A household with $50,000 or less income is likely to struggle to pay for food and housing costs, as well as medical expenses.

Spencer Lewis and Deborah Lewis are not concerned about gas prices rising. They don’t want to sacrifice summer travel or weekend getaways. It’s about making sure they have enough gas to drive Annabelle to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for chemotherapy and other medications delivered through a port in her chest.

The family relies on Spencer’s disability check, which he receives because he has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a hereditary disorder that causes him severe joint pain. He also has broken discs and a cyst that pushes against his spinal nerves. He stopped working as a pest controller technician in January and shifted more financial responsibilities towards his wife.

The disability check covers rent and utilities, leaving Deborah’s freelance work to cover gas. They also receive $500 per month from Miracles for KidsThe, which assists families with critically ill kids.

Deborah packed snacks for the drive ahead while Annabelle waited on the couch wrapped in her favorite blanket. Her treatments have made her hair a lot shorter. Deborah spent $73.24 at Costco the night before.

Deborah discovered that the couple had a negative balance on their checking account before they left. “I have so much on my plate,” she said.

One family member has already been delayed in getting health care: Chief, a Doberman Pinscher, skipped a visit to the vet for a mass that had pushed up his intestines.

Politicians are keenly aware of inflation’s leaching effects. Most California households will get their October paychecks in October. “inflation-relief checks” of up to $1,050 To offset the high price of gas and other goods, Gov. Gavin Newsom was elected in June. California’s average gas price per gallon remains above $5While the national average is $4.

However, experts warn that affordability could be a major concern for Californians even if they have the one-time assistance. Insulin prices can vary from a mere $1 to a few hundred dollars. $300 to $400 per vial without insurance.

“We’ve seen a number of patients living with diabetes and on a fixed income greatly impacted by rising inflation,” said Matthew Freeby, an endocrinologist and director of the UCLA Gonda Diabetes Center. “Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes typically require multiple prescription medications that may already be costly. Patients have had to choose between day-to-day finances and their lifesaving medications, such as insulin or other treatments.”

People who depend on certain foods in their health care routine, especially those who are dependent on them for their nutrition, face inflation. food prices up 10.9% The past year.

Toyan Miller, 60, an integrative nutritional health practitioner from San Dimas, California, has been diagnosed with vasculitis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, two autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation. Miller’s medically tailored diet requires gluten-free, organic food. Miller said she’s dipping into her savings to afford the average of $300 she spends each week on groceries. She spent $100 less last year.

“The avocado mayonnaise price freaked me out,” she said. “It used to be $8. Now, it’s $16.99.”

Even healthy people may be able to help family members or friends in dire need.

Shelley Goldstein, 60 years old, is a financial aid worker in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. She helps her parents, who are both in their 90s and mountainous neighborhood of Laurel Canyon. Goldstein’s father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a retirement community with his wife, Doris.

“Those are basic things, but that’s like $70 a month between the two of them,” said Goldstein, who works as a speaking coach. “That’s a lot.”

Goldstein worries about how much more of her parents’ health costs she’ll have to shoulder since they are pensioners on fixed incomes.

“What keeps me up at night right now is what’s to come,” she said. “There’s two of them. My parents’ increased need for pads, meds, and other medical support increases as their health declines.”

KHN(Kaiser Health News), a national newsroom, produces in-depth journalism on health issues. KHN is one the three major operating programs. It includes Policy Analysis and Polling. KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization that provides information to the nation on health issues.