Kerry Ludlam

Kerry Ludlam, a journalism major, was two months out of college and still searching for a job. When a reporting position opened up at a suburban Atlanta weekly newspaper, she jumped at the opportunity.

She needed a paycheck, but it came at a substantial cost. The newspaper required employees to complete a six-month probationary period before they qualified for health insurance. “I had always been on my parent’s insurance,” Kerry says. “I wasn’t thinking about how expensive it was going to be. I had always paid a co-pay [for medications or a doctor’s visit] and that was it.”

The lack of insurance would have been far more disastrous if Kerry took a biologic medication, which can cost at least $1,500 monthly, and potentially far more. But Kerry still paid about $200 each month for the hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and other medications she took to treat her lupus.

Her boyfriend, who was already working, stepped in to help. Otherwise she couldn’t have afforded the drugs on a salary that barely cleared $20,000 annually.

“Some men buy their girlfriends flowers and nice dinners,” she jokes, wryly. “And he was buying me medication.”

Kerry was lucky in several other ways. She didn’t encounter an unexpected catastrophe, like a car wreck. Her lupus didn’t land her in the hospital. But she hadn’t anticipated the wear and tear on her system that came with working in the professional world. Gone was the college luxury of taking a mid-day nap or signing up for classes that started mid-morning or later.

When Kerry felt a flare developing, she would head straight home. She didn’t take her chances or push the envelope. Rest was the medicine she could afford; she slept away many a weekend to stay as healthy as possible.

Eight months after Kerry started her newspaper job, she jumped to a better paying public relations position with better benefits. The insurance consumed a larger chunk out of her paycheck, but most importantly, she qualified for coverage within 30 days.

Today Kerry no longer struggles to pay her medical expenses. She has health insurance through a full-time media relations job at Emory University in Atlanta.

“I purposely sought out a large organization that would have strong health benefits,” says Kerry. “They highly incentivize us for using Emory physicians, so my out-of-pocket costs are very low.”

Plus, she adds: “Emory is a major center for lupus research, too, so I know I am in good hands.”

As for her boyfriend who helped her with her medication costs? He is now her husband of seven years. They have two children, ages 3 and 5.

 

Excerpted from the Arthritis Foundation’s Raising a Child With Arthritis: A Parent’s Guide. To order a copy,, click here

(Updated 2012)