To detail the cost for one year of a chronic disease, 50 patients with Stage III rheumatoid arthritis were surveyed. Direct medical costs for this group were three times the national average, and 58% of these costs were covered by insurance. Indirect costs due to lost income were at least three times the direct medical costs, and transfer payments covered only 42% of these costs. Fifty-eight percent of the study group also sustained a major psychosocial loss. Uncovered income losses were the greatest economic burden for individuals with chronic rheumatoid arthritis. This striking ratio of indirect to direct medical costs has important implications for medical practice and health policy.