Choosing Between Food and Medicine

For many low-income people with chronic illnesses, Upworthy notes it’s a decision far too familiar.

Seth Berkowitz, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, recalls a woman — a mother — who ended up in the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure. The woman had a prescription for a medication to keep her blood pressure down, but she hadn’t filled it because it was nearing the end of the school year and her kids’ final tests were coming up. Faced with the option of paying for a prescription she needed or making sure her kids weren’t going into their tests hungry, she chose to feed her kids.

This is not an uncommon dilemma. When Berkowitz conducted a study on the subject back in 2014, he discovered that a third of the chronically ill patients he saw couldn’t afford both food and medication.

It’s a terrible choice made worse by the fact that skipping medications in favor of buying food often forces people to end up spending more on health care in the long run.

The reason is that medical emergencies are expensive — even just a ride in an ambulance can cost several thousands of dollars — and skipping regular checkups or other preventive care can lead to more costly problems further down the line.