Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast

How to avoid a big bill for your COVID test: with Sarah Kliff of the New York Times

1 day 21 hours ago

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.


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How to Keep Cool in a Tough Moment: A self-defense expert breaks it down

1 week 5 days ago

Possibly our most-useful episode ever. A listener asked: How do I remain cool when calling insurance companies?


We called a veteran self-defense teacher— because self-defense means 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.


Send your stories and questionshttps://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG


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/

 

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David v Goliath: How to beat a big hospital (using small claims court)

3 weeks 5 days ago

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


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How to handle debt collectors, with the TikTok Mom and a legal expert

1 month 1 week ago

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/


Shaunna's dealing-with-debt-collectors TikTok videos


Be sure to note Jen Bosco's legal caveats, but these are great and will get you in a fighting spirit

  1. Rapid-fire advice: They can't just call whenever they want. There's a statute of limitations on debt. You can— and should — demand documentation.
  2. If they can't document that this debt is valid... you've got options.
  3. You're under no obligation to give them any information.
  4. If the debt is valid, BE NICE. Take their calls. You may eventually be able to work out an OK deal.


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Your TikTok Mom has some medical-bill tips, and a hell of a story

1 month 3 weeks ago

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. 

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A Blast of Hope and Humanity: Here's what perseverance looks like

2 months 1 week ago

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.

 

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She tangled with health insurance every day for 25 years. And loved it. Here's what she can teach us.

2 months 3 weeks ago

Barbara Faubion got up every day psyched to go to work—which she says puzzled her friends. “They’d go, ‘You love your job?!? You spend your whole day talking to an insurance company. Are you kidding me?’”


She wasn’t kidding. Because she loved to win—and she was really, really good at untangling other people’s health-insurance problems. 

She's here to teach us what she knows.


And we'll learn something else too, from a conversation with ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen: Why doesn't EVERY health insurance broker have someone like Barbara on staff? This story he did in 2019 has some big clues.


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(Audio excerpt from “Going Down Now” used with permission. ℗&© 2020 The Rockmores. Published by The Rockmores, Boston, MA www.therockmores.com.  All rights reserved. Unauthorized use is a violation of applicable copyright laws.)

 

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How to fight like a bulldog (against bogus medical bills)

3 months ago

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." And 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

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Financial self-defense school, now in session: Make your own luck.

3 months 2 weeks ago

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/

 

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1 hour 5 minutes ago
Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast

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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