Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast

Mini-episode: Two small doses of good news

1 week 3 days ago

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 (whose 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).


Here's a transcript for this episode.

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

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A 21st-century Christmas Carol: How one Scrooge became a health-care whistleblower

3 weeks 5 days ago

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. We would love it. 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 runs free pop-up clinics— and seeing one played a role in Wendell Potter’s move from Scrooge to whistle-blower.
  • Get Us PPE 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 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, Christmas in July.)
  • MLK 50: Justice Through Journalism 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.


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 questionshttps://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG

 

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From our reporter's notebook: What we learned in 2020, and what's ahead, with T.K. Dutes

1 month 1 week ago

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."


Check out Open World, a terrific podcast T.K. published recently with fellow superstar Rose Eveleth. The first episode features a reading by and discussion with the writer N.K. Jemisin, who won a MacArthur "genius" award the day after the show came out. (Clearly, the MacArthur folks were listening.)


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 questionshttps://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG

 

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Fight! My family tries to pick health insurance for next year. COVID makes it harder.

1 month 2 weeks ago

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 want to go deeper on health insurance, you might want to check these episodes from our first season:


And here are some other helpful big-picture takes:


Want to go really deep? Like, you're actually looking at buying health insurance, maybe on the Obamacare exchange?

  • I found healthcare.gov to be SUPER-usable this year, way better than last time I checked: I punched in the answers to a few questions, and got to quickly tell it which doctors our family sees (and what meds we take)... and it provided a clear list that showed which plans cover our docs, how much they would cost us, etc.
  • SUBSIDIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR OBAMACARE PLANS. Our pals at the Kaiser Family Foundation—who run Kaiser Health News, our production partners— have this explanation of how they work. (It's a slog, but thorough. Print it out, open a beer, and settle in.)
  • Remember how we said in this episode that lots of folks qualify for a plan with no premium? That's this bit of research from...  

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Andy Slavitt gives us a COVID check-in from 40,000 feet

1 month 2 weeks ago

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 questionshttps://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG

 

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

2 months 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.


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 questionshttps://armandalegshow.com/contact/ or call 724 ARM-N-LEG

 

See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

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

2 months 1 week 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/

 

See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

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

2 months 3 weeks 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


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

 

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

3 months 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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Checked
2 hours 1 minute 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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