4/12/10 Brittiny Peters never imagined she would log on to eBay to sell almost all of her family’s possessions. But that's exactly what 28-year-old, stay-at-home mom from Gainesville, Ga., ended up doing earlier this year when she found herself burdened by thousands of dollars of medical debt.

Her 7-year-old daughter, Ayla, has Still’s disease, also known as systemic-onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by painful joints, spiking fevers and skin rashes. To add to their difficulties, her 2-year old son, Noah, has severe autism.

Brittiny and her husband Gregg, a self-employed tennis instructor, had already hired a budget coach, traded their cars for older models and pared down their cable and phone bills. Gregg cut his hours so his income was low enough for the children to qualify for Medicaid, but the government program doesn't cover all bills, and they faced medical expenses of $2,000 a month.

Selling their home wasn't an option: Even after putting down $10,000 and paying monthly mortgage payments for nearly five years, the dwindling housing market had left them with $20,000 in negative equity.

“For weeks, we asked ourselves: “What do we want to hold on to? What do we want to let go of?” says Peters. “And then it hit us. What kind of parents are we? Do we really want Noah to have three days of therapy, rather than five, just so we can keep the flatscreen TV?”

And so Peters complied a list and then logged on to eBay: Almost everything – from the Whirlpool Heavy Duty washing machine and the king-sized mahogany bed to the kids’ cradles and rope and swing set – was offered for $20,000.

What started as a family joke – “We owe so much money we might as well sell all our stuff” – had become a reality. When Mary Lemanski, a nurse from Springfield, N.J., who has rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA), became so disabled that she could no longer work, at age 53, the cost of her health insurance soared.

When her premiums topped $1,000 a month, she says she could no longer pay for coverage or for the expensive biologic drug that she calls “my miracle.”

“I am even considering selling my car so I could go back on Enbrel. It was so wonderful feeling that well,” Lemanski writes in a letter to Arthritis Today. “RA is a disease only for the wealthy.”

There’s no question that arthritis is an expensive disease. In fact, osteoarthritis and other non-traumatic joint diseases consistently rank among the top ten most expensive chronic diseases according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

But now, to add to the pain of high prices, costs are shifting. Individuals like Lemanski are being asked to pick up greater percentages of the cost of their health care – a trend that shows up in higher co-pays at the pharmacy and doctor’s office and higher monthly insurance premiums.

And studies show that out-of-pocket costs are rising faster for arthritis than they are for many other chronic diseases.