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An Arm and a Leg

An Arm and a Leg

Author: An Arm and a Leg

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A show about the cost of health care that’s more entertaining, empowering, and occasionally useful than enraging, and terrifying and depressing. Reporter Dan Weissmann digs in to show how we got into this crazy mess and how we just might live through it.

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How hard is it to pick the best health insurance? ECONOMISTS find it hard. Including one who has studied the question, "How hard can it be to pick a decent insurance plan?" Lots of people are suddenly eligible to pick possibly-cheaper health insurance thanks to the American Rescue Plan—the big stimulus bill Congress passed in March—so we thought it could be useful to bring this 2018 story back. Also useful: This essay from health-care reporter Zachary Tracer about how he picked his health insurance, with directions for you (that start with pouring yourself a drink) https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-pick-choose-health-insurance-plan-2018-10 There are more how-tos, and health insurance basics, on our web page from the original version of this story. https://armandalegshow.com/episode/why-you-and-i-will-likely-pick-the-wrong-health-insurance-plan/ And here's a VERY useful tool, described in the episode—IF you live in DC, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, or Vermont: http://www.checkbookhealth.org/hie/ As always, we'd love you to share a story— https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ ... or support this show https://armandalegshow.com/support/  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
... and it's gonna take us a little while to get it ready for you— maybe a couple months. Meanwhile, we'll have little updates for you here and there. ... and it's a great time to sign up for our newsletter, where we'll have details on what's next, and stories we think you'll be interested in. Here's where to go: https://armandalegshow.com/newsletter/  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
With COVID vaccinations ramping up, it's time to check in: Who's been trying to make a buck? And who's been doing their best to serve the folks who need help the most? In Philadelphia, the good, the bad, and the ugly have all been on vivid display. The Bad comes with a giant serving of chutzpah: For a while, the city put its mass-vaccination program in the hands of a 22 year-old with no experience in health care, but with a healthy interest in making money. It did NOT go well. (You may have seen that headline before. We get the deep dive from public-radio reporter Nina Feldman, who uncovered the caper.) The Ugly is systemic racism: Or is it just a coincidence that the city put its trust in a white 22 year-old... while ignoring an effective group of licensed, experienced, Black health-care professionals who were volunteering their time? That would be the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, led by Dr. Ala Stanford. The Good is the work that Dr. Stanford and the Consortium have been doing, which throws the Bad and the Ugly into stark relief. Since last spring, they've been working tirelessly and creatively to address disparities in the care that Black Philadelphians receive for COVID-19. They're not the only folks working to address those disparities—including a lack of good vaccine information from trusted sources. Here's a great example from a project called The Conversation: Between Us and About Us, hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell: You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp6S4C6zG_M We talked with one of the project's leaders, Dr. Rhea Boyd, author of a recent New York Times essay, Black People Need Better Vaccine Access, Not Better Vaccine Attitudes. (Disclosure: The project is backed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, who also are behind our co-producers at Kaiser Health News.) Here's a transcript for this episode: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Transcript-An-Arm-and-a-Leg-S5-EP05-COVID-Check-In-2021-03-17.pdf Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG And of course we'd love for you to support this showhttps://armandalegshow.com/support/  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
We're re-releasing and updating a story we first reported in 2019, about how insulin got to be so horribly expensive—the scientists who discovered it did NOT want price or profits to keep it away from people who need it—and what some people are doing about it, today. The story seems especially relevant right now, for two reasons: 1. the COVID vaccine process has reminded all of us how vital it is to BOTH get breakthroughs in the lab AND to make sure everyone can afford to benefit from them. 2. The second half of the episode—about ways that folks who need insulin are taking action on their own behalf—turns out to have been a sneak preview of this show's current focus on self-defense. Also, the whole thing is a wild ride. And: The updates from people we talked to in 2019? All more encouraging than we'd expected. Here's a transcript for this episode. Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG And of course we'd love for you to support this show.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Yep. This viral TikTok video's recipe for "crushing" medical bills is legally sound. And IRS filings from thousands of hospitals attest to $2.7 billion of crush-able debt from a single year— a number that experts say looks more like a floor than a ceiling. Of course, it'll take a lot of work to actually zap those debts. But Jared Walker is off to a promising start. His organization, Dollar For, had already helped wipe out millions in medical bills before he made that video.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Jeff is a lawyer who used to represent medical-bill collectors in court. ("I was a bad guy, for sure," he says.) But he switched sides, and he's here to tell us what he knows. For instance, we have more rights than we probably know. It can be tough to get them enforced, but he's got some tips there too. And his portait of how the dark machinery works is... kind of hilarious. Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG And of course we'd love for you to support this show: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Here's a transcript for this episode: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Arm-and-a-Leg_S05-Ep02_Know-Your-Rights_Transcript.pdf  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
2021 is off to a rough start, but we've got a couple of small things that don't completely suck. First, a new federal rule could help cut through one completely-ridiculous issue. Then, a listener describes how he headed off an insurance nightmare, using what he learned from this show. Dan talked about the first story—a requirement that hospitals give us some information upfront about what a given service might cost us (after insurance, if we've got it)—in a short conversation with Niala Boodhoo for the daily-news podcast Axios Today. You'll find a LOT more detail on that rule in this story from reporter Celia Llopis-Jepsen: https://www.kmuw.org/post/you-now-have-right-know-your-hospitals-prices-and-heres-how-experts-hope-will-help (Celia's reporting about a $50,000 "air ambulance" ride formed the core of a recent episode about how we get squeezed by insurers on one side and providers on the other: https://armandalegshow.com/episode/financial-self-defense-school-now-in-session-make-your-own-luck/) Here's a transcript for this episode: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Arm-and-a-Leg_S05-Ep01_Two-Small-Doses-of-Good-News_Transcript.pdf Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ ... or call 724 ARM-N-LEG And of course we'd love for you to support this show:https://armandalegshow.com/support/  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Former health-care executive Wendell Potter spent part of 2020 publishing high-profile apologies for the lies he says he told the American people in his old job—and trying to debunk the myths he once sold. The story of how he became a whistle-blower is a modern-day Christmas Carol. And it's a story about the long, messy process of change—whether that’s changing your own life or trying to change a bigger system. It’s a great way to close out a pretty-terrible year. Another cheerful note THANK YOU!!! Your support for this show has MAXED OUT the matching program NewsMatch. It’s a huge, huge boost for our work in 2021. Of course, we could still use your support before the year ends. There is SO much work ahead. AND, if you’re looking for other places to help out, here are a few places doing powerful work: - Remote Area Medical (https://www.ramusa.org) runs free pop-up clinics— and seeing one played a role in Wendell Potter’s move from Scrooge to whistle-blower. - Get Us PPE (https://getusppe.org/) helps front-line workers get the personal protective equipment they need to stay safe during the pandemic. (And yep, that is still a thing. Grrr…) - RIP Medical Debt (https://ripmedicaldebt.org) pools money to buy up old medical debt and forgive it. By doing bulk transactions, they can take a $5 donation and use it to discharge $500 in debt. (We featured their work in a 2019 episode: https://armandalegshow.com/episode/christmas-in-july-one-familys-tragedy-becomes-a-1-million-gift-to-their-neighbors/.) - MLK 50: Justice Through Journalism (https://mlk50.com/) does powerful investigative reporting. After they exposed how the biggest hospital in Memphis was suing patients over unpaid bills, the hospital was shamed into dropping thousands of lawsuits and erasing almost $12 million in debt. (https://armandalegshow.com/episode/a-hospital-sued-thousands-of-patients-then-a-reporter-called-them-out/) And of course it is absolutely not too late to support this show. Here’s that link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact or call 724 ARM-N-LEG)  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
This episode turns the tables: Host Dan Weissmann gets interviewed about what he's learned this year, and what's ahead for the show— with T.K. Dutes, an ace radio host and podcast-maker ... who was a nurse in a previous life, so she knows a thing or two about the health-care system. (She chronicled her career transition in an episode of NPR's Life Kit.) And here we learn: During her nursing career, she was uninsured. She's got some stories about life before-and-after health insurance. T.K. also coins what could be a new tagline for this show: "Where there's money, there's going to be scams." Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here’s the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Keeping the plan we've got means paying $200 a month more. But... would a "cheaper" plan cost us more in the long run? It depends! And COVID makes it a lot more complicated. This stinks. You can hear my wife and me try to puzzle the whole thing out, and then I debrief with an expert. Who leaves me reminded how lucky we are to have the options we do. HEALTH INSURANCE SUCKS. But the alternative is so much worse. If you're trying to pick—or to figure out if you can afford insurance—we've got a bunch of resources on the web page for this episode: https://armandalegshow.com/my-family-picks-insurance Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here’s the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Andy Slavitt, who ran a big chunk of health care for the Obama administration, has spent 2020 talking with almost everybody who knows anything about the COVID pandemic— and sharing what he learns in real time, first on Twitter, then on his pandemic podcast "In the Bubble." When we wanted an episode taking a look at the big picture—what we've learned so far from the pandemic and what we might expect next—Andy was the person we wanted to talk to. And he said yes! We got into the money side of what we can expect with vaccines and testing, and treatment—which wasn’t always pretty but wasn't all bad news—and we ended up with some really big-picture questions about the profit motive in health care. Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here’s the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG We discussed the money side of what we can expect with vaccines and testing, and treatment—which wasn’t always pretty but wasn't all bad news—and we ended up with some really big-picture questions about the profit motive in health care. Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here’s the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
They're supposed to be free. And usually they are. But sometimes... things happen. Here's how to keep them from happening to YOU. New York Times reporter Sarah Kliff has been asking readers to send in their COVID-testing bills. She's now seen hundreds of them, and she runs down for us the most common ways things can go sideways, and how to avoid them. Here's Sarah's NYT story that inspired this episode: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/upshot/coronavirus-surprise-bills-guide.html Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here's the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact or call 724 ARM-N-LE:  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Possibly our most-useful episode ever. A listener asked: How do I remain cool when calling insurance companies? We called a self-defense teacher—because self-defense is a lot more than hitting and kicking. It's about standing up for yourself in all kinds of difficult situations. Which means using your words. Lauren Taylor talks us through some of her top strategies, and how she used them this year in her own epic health-insurance fight. Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here's the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Lauren Taylor talks us through some of her top strategies, and how she used them this year in her own epic health-insurance fight. Support us: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. You can make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. Here's the link: https://armandalegshow.com/support  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In a classic—and hilarious—David vs. Goliath story, Jeffrey Fox takes on a huge hospital over an outrageous bill, and wins. He's a bit of an expert in using small claims court to get satisfaction, and he's got detailed instructions for all of us. Here's his first lesson: The other side—no matter how big they are, and no matter what they say to you—doesn't actually get to make the rules. Not the LEGAL rules. The details of how he got to victory in this case are super-entertaining, and super-satisfying. Support us: You can now make a one-time donation OR make an ongoing monthly pledge. AND: During November and December 2020, your donation counts for DOUBLE, thanks to a campaign called NewsMatch. So cool. Just click here to give: https://armandalegshow.com/support/ Want more detail on this whole small-claims-court strategy? Got you covered: - Some folks have used just the threat of small claims court to get outrageous bills lowered. You'll hear all about it in our 2019 episode Can They Freaking DO That?!?: https://armandalegshow.com/episode/can-they-freaking-do-that/ - Law professor Christopher Robertson describes some of the legal theory behind this approach in a Harvard Law School blog post: https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2017/10/03/medical-bills-are-open-price-contracts-a-victory-for-the-little-guy/ - Jeffrey Fox posted documents from his case, and a brief narrative:http://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Writeup-1.pdf - Finally, here's this episode's transcript: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Arm-and-a-Leg-Transcript-S4-Ep07-David-v-Goliath-Published-Oct-29-2020.pdf Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
There's a reason Shaunna Burns went viral with her videos about dealing with debt collectors: She used to be one, so she knows a few things. (Also she's smart and funny.) We fact-checked her advice with a legal expert: Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. Who said: Yep, most of Shaunna's advice totally checks out. This one's full of useful tips—and it's fun— so please pass it around. Debt collectors are out in force, and as you'll hear in this episode, they can be super-unscrupulous. But, as you'll also learn: We've got rights. You don't need to have heard our earlier episode about Shaunna and her story; you can just start right here. (There's lots of strong language in both this and the previous Shaunna episode, so maybe save them for when the kids aren't around.) Meanwhile, here's a bunch of links to resources: The National Consumer Law Center, where Jenifer Bosco works, publishes the book Surviving Debt - There are chapters on medical debt, dealing with debt collectors, and what to do if you get sued - The book is updated every year - It's free to read online at https://library.nclc.org/sd Consumer-finance expert Gerri Detweiler, who helped fact-check one big question for this episode, has a VERY useful-looking site: https://www.debtcollectionanswers.com/ - She just published a new article with answers to questions like "Can medical bills be sent to collections if you're making payments?" (yep) and "How do I dispute a medical bill in collections? - There's another, more-general primer on medical debt/collections, also updated recently. - Gerri and co-author Mary Reed offer their e-book Debt Collection Answers as a free download. (It was published in 2015, so it may not be as up-to-date.) Shaunna's dealing-with-debt-collectors TikTok videos. We've got links at https://armandalegshow.com/handling-debt-collectors. (Be sure to note Jen Bosco's legal caveats, but these are great and will get you in a fighting spirit.) Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG Support us: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Forty-something mom Shaunna Burns went viral on TikTok, thanks in part to a series of videos dishing out real-talk advice on fighting outrageous medical bills. She's become the virtual mom that thousands of Gen-Z followers love. She's funny, smart, and relatable—and she's got stories that'll make your hair stand on end. (Yep, medical bills figure into some of them.) Oh, and she can swear like a f---ing sailor. So maybe save this one for when the kids aren't around. Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG Support us: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Laura Derrick fought and endured for decades. When medical bills threatened to swamp her family, she made huge sacrifices, worked unbelievably hard... and helped change the course of history. In a moment when we're all enduring a LOT, it seemed like a great time for Laura's story. It's one of the first stories we ever told on this show, and it has special resonance right now. Bonus: We catch up with Laura for an update.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Steve Benasso is an HR director who, his colleagues will tell you, hates insurance companies, and hates seeing people getting taken advantage of. So he fights off weird medical bills and bogus insurance denials for those colleagues. "I am a bulldog on this stuff," he says. "I do it every month." On this episode, he tells us how he does it. Send your stories and questions: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG Support us: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow We are bringing you these self-defense lessons thanks to direct support from listeners. We’d love for you to support us too: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
If you need medical care, it's like you've entered a casino, playing for your financial life, with the deck stacked against you. Lucky for us, we get insight — and tips the dealer WON'T tell you— from ace reporter Celia Llopis-Jepsen. To start with, she got an executive from a health-care company to talk honestly — maybe more honestly than he realized — about how his company and others are playing the game, when they send patients bills for huge amounts. Here's what else she found, when she investigated an $80,000 bill one man got: For many COVID patients, including the guy in her story, lots of providers just aren't allowed to bill for more than insurance pays them. Those are providers who took some of the $175 billion in bailout funds that Congress passed out in March. Don't expect your provider to just tell you. (That $80,000 bill did not include a footnote saying, "Once insurance pays us, you can forget all about this.") But if you get a bill for COVID treatment, you can make your own luck and look up the provider yourself. Because Celia found a government database where you can SEE if your provider took those funds. We also like Celia's Expert tip sheet for pushing back against your medical bills. ... and her first big medical-bill story— A Kansan's $50k Medical Bill Shows That You Don't Always Owe What You're Charged— is packed with insight too. Note: When this episode was first posted, our host mis-pronounced the first name of a man who received an $80,000 bill. He is Anil Garmalkar. The audio has been corrected. We are bringing you these self-defense lessons every two weeks from here on out. That's thanks to direct support from listeners. We'd love for you to support us too: https://armandalegshow.com/support/  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
There's no time like a pandemic to (a) learn to fight back against the awful cost of health care. And (b) have a good time doing it. Yep. Let’s go.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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Comments (8)

woo chin

I think this makes a lot of sense https://wordcounter.tools

Jan 22nd
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Angie Stahl

One of my favorite episodes of this podcast and across all the ones I listen to. Tiktok Mom (and her husband) are bighearted gems. Thanks for doing what you do!

Oct 3rd
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Bella Quinn

so i love this podcast and have learned alot. so its pretty terrible what hospitals are doing to really sick patients. my theory if everyone stops paying insurance companies and stop paying hospitals all at the same time. maybe we could get health care that is standardized and that everyone can afford. like our justice system, we have the best healthcare system that money can buy. i really think everyone should consider my theory.

Apr 24th
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E Meany

interesting podcast. Informative. Quick question, why give a trigger warning about bleeped cuss words but explicitly describe dog testing and killing in the insulin episode? I would rather hear cuss words.

Jan 6th
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Simon Riley

what is the name of the tool they talk about from 12-13 min in?

Sep 13th
Reply (1)

Sheng h. davis

such a great show!!! why is this podcast not more popular?

Jan 9th
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