Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast

"We just kept right on pushing"

1 week 3 days ago

Manny Lanza died because he didn't have insurance. His parents fought back, with help from New York’s favorite tabloid. After years of work by advocates and organizers, laws suddenly changed. Here’s how.


Here's a transcript for this episode.

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The wild backstory of a tiny but crucial Obamacare provision (ft. David Axelrod)

3 weeks 3 days ago

How one Republican senator made sure the ACA required non-profit hospitals to act more like charities—and less like loan sharks—before voting against the whole thing. 


The national requirement to offer charity care emerged from the Obama White House’s failed courtship of GOP Senator Chuck Grassley. We hear how that failed courtship almost tanked the ACA— and how the battle over the ACA “broke America”—from former Obama adviser David Axelrod, longtime reporter Julie Rovner and a top Grassley aide. 


This is the second in a four-part series—but you can totally start right here!


The series looks at the (slow, uneven) development of legal protections for consumers (a.k.a. patients, a.k.a. people who just don't want to die and aren't Bill Gates) against outrageous medical bills and draconian collection practices.


You can listen to the first episode any time, before or after this one. It's about how a legendary lawyer—the guy who beat Big Tobacco in the 1990s—tried to sue non-profit hospitals into acting more like charities and less like loan sharks. (He lost, but it wasn't a total dead-end; that's where this episode picks up.) It's totally fun too. It's right here.


Here's a transcript for this episode

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

And of course we'd love for you to support this show.Here's a transcript for this episode


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A legendary lawyer sued hospitals for price-gouging their patients. And got his butt handed to him.

1 month 1 week ago

The lawyer was Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the lawyer who beat Big Tobacco in the 1990s. Later, he launched a series of ill-fated national lawsuits aimed at getting non-profit hospitals to quit price-gouging low-income patients, and chasing them hard for payment. It... didn't go as well as the tobacco lawsuit, by a long shot. Scruggs did help start something that ended up making real change.


For instance: We’ve been following the work of Jared Walker, who went super-viral on TikTok, spreading the word that non-profit hospitals are legally obligated to provide charity care. That obligation didn’t exist when Scruggs launched those lawsuits.


This is the start of a four-part series about how change actually happens. In this case, it’s a wild ride, and it's not done. By the end of this series, we'll meet folks today who are pushing that work forward. 


Next stop: The White House. It’s gonna be fun. 


Meanwhile, maybe you can help make change happen: Researchers at the Innovation for Justice program at the University of Arizona are looking at hospitals’ debt collection practices, and how laws or regulations could do a better job protecting people. They’re looking to talk to some people who have been sued over medical bills. If that’s you, or someone you know, here’s a link to get in touch: bit.ly/talkmeddebt. It’s a 30-minute interview. They’re not gonna release your name or anything to ANYBODY, it’s all anonymous. (And there might be a gift card in it for you.)


Here's a transcript for this episode.


Big thanks to Kindling Group for allowing us to use audio from their documentary Do No Harm in this episode. You can learn more about their work at kindlinggroup.org.


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

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We’re back! Starting Aug 19. And we’ve got some doozies for you.

1 month 3 weeks ago

We’ve been on a hiatus for a minute, and we are SO excited about what we’re coming back with.

These are stories we’ve been collecting for months—some of them for more than a year—and they’re big. 


One of them turns out to be about how change actually happens. Which for a show about the cost of health care—one that promises (and we do) to be entertaining, empowering, and useful—change is important. 


And, as horrible as things are right now, we’ve been learning: some things used to be worse. 


For instance, this year we’ve been reporting on how people can get bills forgiven by hospitals. It’s called charity care, and it’s the law. Twenty years ago, in most of the country, THIS WAS NOT A THING.


The road to making this a right took a lot of work from a lot of people. Like one of the country’s biggest lawyers—the guy who helped bring down big tobacco.


You know, big tobacco was TOUGH. And he BEAT them. But on hospitals… he totally failed.


Well, not totally. But it’s a wild ride, and we’ll be on it for a few episodes. It even takes us to the Oval Office, which is fun.


And after that… well, I’ve met a couple of people who have taken me into the GUTS of health insurance, and actually, blown my mind about what it really is.


As always, please 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.


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Badass volunteers help Jared level up, in the fight to crush medical debt

2 months 1 week ago

An update on Jared Walker, whose viral TikTok described a little-known (and effective) method to “crush” many hospital bills, and offered to help folks deploy it. Since then, he's been responding to thousands of requests for help—and building a system to respond more effectively, thanks to a small army of whip-smart volunteers. 


Jared’s non-profit, Dollar For, has got that system up and running. So: If anyone you know has a hospital bill they can’t pay, the system can quickly tell them if they might qualify for debt forgiveness, and get them started on an application. Here’s the link. Pass it around.


Also, if you want to see that original 60-second video, it's here.


Here’s the transcript for this episode


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


And of course we'd love for you to support this show.


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A whole book about fighting effed-up medical bills? Yes, please.

2 months 3 weeks ago

For years, at ProPublica, Marshall Allen has been exposing health care grifters. (He’s our kind of guy.) 

Now, he's written a book … about how to fight back. It’s called “Never Pay the First Bill.” We talked—about some of his best tips, about how you can’t win ‘em all, and about why it’s worth learning all you can and giving it your best shot.


Marshall compares the U.S. health-care "system" to the bully he faced in 7th grade. Big, stupid, mean. And SOMETIMES—as he learned in junior high--you can stand up to 'em, and not get stomped. Worth. Your. Best. Shot.


Marshall is a kindred spirit—we talked to him for stories in 2019 and 2020— and the conversation is a whole vibe. He shares some “magic words” that are worth memorizing or writing down somewhere. 

Here’s one you can copy and paste, for if you ever end up in the ER. There’ll be a form they want you to sign, that says you’ll pay WHATEVER insurance doesn’t cover. If you can, X that out, and write in this instead:


I consent to appropriate treatment and (including applicable insurance payments) to be responsible for reasonable charges up to two times the Medicare rate.


(Why Medicare? Listen in for the details.)


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. https://armandalegshow.com/support/


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Want to write a killer letter to insurance? Meet Jeannine.

3 months 2 weeks ago

Health care insiders get stupid medical bills too. One of them taught us how to write an insurance appeal—like the one that saved her son $14,000. You can read that letter—and her notes to us about why she chose to include certain words and key facts—right here: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Appeal_letter_2020_redacted_with_comments.pdf


We met Jeannine after our host addressed a conference of “industry insiders.” It wasn’t much fun. But this makes it all worthwhile.


Links! You can...

Read the transcript for this episode: https://armandalegshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/S5-Ep09-New_Friend_Transcript.pdf

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

And of course, support this show: https://armandalegshow.com/support/


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47 minutes 25 seconds ago
Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast
A show about why health care costs so freaking much, and what we can (maybe) do about it. Hosted by award-winning reporter Dan Weissmann (Marketplace, 99 Percent Invisible, Planet Money, Reveal).


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