Last Tuesday, March 7, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) came under fire for remarks he made during a CNN interview in which he suggested people forgo buying iPhones and use that money to cover their health care costs. Chaffetz’s comments, which he later walked back, upset those who understand that affording healthcare isn’t as easy as selling or doing without an iPhone. Vera Haynes, a 24-year-old living with Type 1 diabetes, is one of those people.
Haynes, a librarian in Hays, Kansas, decided she would help educate Chaffetz and the general public about the true costs of treating a chronic illness with an infographic.
One year of asthma medication would cost five iPhones.
“I’ve been feeling an urge to make or write or do something to help people understand the healthcare debate from the side of people with chronic illnesses, but I didn’t know what that something was,” Haynes told The Mighty. “When I heard the soundbite from Chaffetz, it was like a bolt of inspiration. He unknowingly gave me the perfect tool to explain the true cost of illness in terms everyone could understand.”
From there, Haynes began gathering sources, including peer-reviewed studies and government documents, to create a series of infographics comparing iPhones to treatment costs. For each infographic, Haynes determined how many iPhone 7, which retail at $649, would be needed to pay for treatment for 10 different diseases. For Type 1 diabetes, she would need 35.6 iPhones to pay for one year of medical supplies.
One year of medical supplies for Type 1 diabetes would cost 35.6 iPhones.
Each infographic represents the cost of treatment without insurance, a distinction Haynes feels it is important to show. “Yes, insurance might bring the costs down, but by how much?” she said. Haynes recently switched to an insurance that considers more than five blood glucose tests a week “excessive use.” But it’s not excessive for Haynes, whose treatment plan requires her to test three to eight times per day. Without insurance covering her additional tests, each test, beyond the first five, would cost Haynes an additional $10, adding between $160 to $510 — depending on how many tests she needs — per week.
“It took a month of constant calls to my doctor and my insurance representative to convince the company to cover five tests a day,” she added. “There are still days where that’s not enough, but at least it’s something.”
One year of lupus medication would cost 20 iPhones.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been around for seven years, since Haynes was 17, but she remembers fearing the cost of care and stockpiling medication for after college, when she, pre-ACA, would no longer be covered under her parents’ plan.
“As soon as I was diagnosed, my mom and I immersed ourselves in the diabetes chat boards online, seeking solace and advice,” Haynes, who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 13, explained. “Everyone on the chat boards had detailed plans to prepare for the time without insurance. Basically, people would start asking their doctors for slightly larger prescriptions for diabetes supplies so you could build up a stockpile. You had to be incredibly careful of expiration dates, but if you started stockpiling in high school, you could build up enough supplies to live off of for six months after graduation.”
Because of the ACA, Haynes never had to use her stockpile.
One year of breast cancer treatment would cost 80.9 iPhones.
The biggest surprise when compiling her data, Haynes said, was the cost of HIV medications. “It’s been in the news a lot in the past few years thanks to Martin Shkreli, but the data I found was from 2010,” she said. “Before Shkreli got his hands on the patents and hiked the prices up, the price of medication was already unreasonably high. No one’s life should cost that much.”
One year of HIV antiretroviral therapy would cost 35.6 iPhones.
“It’s been a hard few years as someone with chronic illnesses,” Haynes added. “After Trump demanded the ACA be repealed, I was devastated. Chaffetz’s comments pushed me over the edge. His words were like a very personal punch in the gut. How a politician could be so ignorant to the hardships and realities of their constituents is beyond me.”
You can view the rest of Haynes’s series below.
One year of epilepsy treatment would cost 21.5 iPhones.
One year treating stage 2 chronic kidney disease would cost you 10.8 iPhones.
One cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) would cost 66 iPhones.
One year of rheumatoid arthritis treatment would cost 8.8 iPhones.
One year of schizophrenia treatment would cost 23.8 iPhones.