Kaiser Health News, An Arm and A Leg Podcast

The hug shortage, the new abnormal, and the $7,000 COVID test. What we've learned in SEASON-19

3 days 20 hours ago

We wrap up our COVID-19 popup season with stories from three folks with very different takes on what we've learned so far about what the pandemic is costing us: A doctor and advocate in Brooklyn looks back on the wave of black and brown patients that filled her clinic in March. A nurse-practitioner in Texas looks at how new tech is—and isn't—helping the older patients she cares for.


And: One of the country's top insurance nerds says her first policy ideas to keep people from getting stuck with high bills for COVID tests ... were wrong.


Get ready for the hug shortage, the new abnormal, and the $7,000 COVID test.


And: Help guide the next steps for this show! Take five minutes for our listener survey. We so appreciate it.

Thanks to everyone who supports the show on Patreon. You can join 'em here: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow

 

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How Katelyn survived COVID—without going bankrupt. (Not easy. She has tips.)

1 week 3 days ago

In early April, Katelyn was in a financial bind: Home sick with COVID, she hadn't been paid in weeks. And bills were due. "My landlord is kinda beating down my door right now," she said in a voicemail to our hotline.


Weeks later, Katelyn got back in touch: She had made it through, thanks to a combination of playing hardball with one company and knowing how to play nice with others.


Because of her job, she had an insider's understanding of the playing-nice process: Katelyn works in collections for a financial institution, so she knew how to ask for help. Even so, she didn't find the process easy.


She came out of the ordeal with a heck of a story, and hard-won tips for all of us.


In addition, here are a couple of resources mentioned in this story:



You can call and leave us a message too: (724) 267-6534 — that's 724 ARM N LEG

Or share stories at https://armandalegshow.com/contact/

Thanks to everybody who supports our work! Join 'em here: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow

 

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The severe, weird recession... in health care. And what it means for our wallets

3 weeks 3 days ago

You've probably noticed: The U.S. economy is crashing.


Something you may not have noticed, that may sound really weird: Almost half of that economic devastation comes from just one sector.

And that sector? It's health care.


If that sounds completely backwards, it is. Except in the world of how we pay for health care in this country.


Because even though we as a society need health care workers like never before, to fight COVID...

... we-as-individuals are avoiding doctors' offices and hospitals for everything else, whenever we can. Just like we're avoiding going out to eat.


And this country runs health care kind of like the restaurant industry: When people stop showing up for Sunday brunch— or for hip replacements, colonoscopies, etc. —the enterprise runs short of cash real fast.


Even folks you'd think would be the most in-demand — ER docs fighting COVID—aren't immune.


In this episode, we look at some of the extra weird details of this very-weird recession: how a couple pieces of it are working, and what they could mean. For our wallets.


We draw in this story on stuff we covered in a Season 3 episode called Can They Freaking DO That?!? It's still fun and relevant, and you can catch it right here.https://armandalegshow.com/episode/can-they-freaking-do-that/


Thanks to everyone who supports this show on Patreon! Join 'em, and we'll shout you out at the end of an episode: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow

 

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COVID tests are free, except... when they're not

1 month ago

Anna's insurance company said it would pay 100 percent for COVID-related testing. And then they left her to pay a giant bill.

She got help, thanks to a viral tweet, but... her story exposes big loopholes in consumer protections. We learn how to avoid falling in.


And: The way people responded to her tweet was generous, moving, and... complicated. Uncomfortable. Weird. Even with everybody doing their absolute best. (And, we should say, with as happy an ending as any of us get these days.)


Anna's story gets right to the heart of some of the really weird ways that dealing with the cost of health care — ESPECIALLY in the world of COVID-19 and the Internet and everything else — just messes with our minds, and our relationships as humans.


Thanks to Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, who reported the story of Anna's bill for Kaiser Health News and kindly let me piggyback on her hard work! You can read her version at.https://khn.org/news/bill-of-the-month-covid19-tests-are-free-except-when-theyre-not/.


Send your stories our way: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/

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Like a fire with no one to call: 'We've left no latent capacity in health care.'

1 month 1 week ago

Ryan Gamlin spent a decade working on the financial side of health care, before going to medical school. Now, as an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles, he’s on the front lines fighting COVID-19, an experience he describes as “scary, in a way that I never expected to be scared, going to work.”


He was scared one day last summer, too, when a California wildfire came within feet of the hospital where he was working. 

And then a fleet of fire trucks showed up to protect the hospital. “City, county, park service, forest service, new trucks, old trucks, unmarked trucks.”


“As I drove home later that day through the protective ring of equipment, I realized the fundamental difference between public safety and health care. Public safety is built on latent capacity. We pay for people and equipment to stand idle, over-prepared for emergencies.”

These days, he’s been thinking back to that experience.


“We’ve left no latent capacity in health care,” he wrote in a Twitter thread


“And some part of the tragedy that’s now unfolding in this country is because of that. Because we let health care become a business. And because businesses don’t keep a hundred extra fire trucks around, their crews trained and ready, just in case.”


We talked with Ryan about his experiences for this week’s episode. With protective equipment in short supply, he said, "It felt like a fire, with no one to call."


We ALSO hear some good news, about folks who are stepping up to help — tapping their own latent capacity.


That includes people making "ear savers" for health-care workers. Turns out, if you wear a mask all day, the elastic rubs the heck out of the skin behind your ears. Some people are 3-D printing connectors that go around the back of the head.


And some people are taking a more low-tech approach. Here's a picture of my friend and neighbor Liz Feldman is the medical director at a local clinic. She's modeling ear-savers that are basically fabric headbands, with buttons sewn in to hold the masks in place, made by a retired colleague from old t-shirts and scavenged buttons.

 

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If I get COVID-19, what good will my insurance do me?

1 month 2 weeks ago

Lots of people have insurance plans that only cover them with certain places —providers, certain hospitals.


But: in a COVID pandemic surge, who knows if you'd end up one of those places? And if you end up someplace else... then what?


That’s the question we got from a listener named Becky in Minnesota. She's got a Bronze plan — it only covers a limited "network" of providers— and she's got a $6,000+ deductible.


With officials talking about converting sports arenas into makeshift hospitals, Becky says: "If you call an ambulance, you may not even go to a hospital, right? Let alone a hospital that is quote-unquote in your network."


We put Becky's question to one of the country’s top health-insurance nerds: Sabrina Corlette, founder and co-director of Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.


Not all the answers were comforting. But they weren't all grim either. And Becky turns out to have some good advice for us all.


And, per Sabrina Corlette's advice for anybody newly out of work — and suddenly without health insurance: Go apply for Medicaid.

As promised in the episode, here's a map showing which states have expanded Medicaid so that pretty much anybody who suddenly has very little income is eligible.


Please keep your questions and stories coming: https://armandalegshow.com/contact/

Or call (724) 276-6534 — that's (724) ARM N LEG

And as always, we'd love you to join us by supporting the show on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow

 

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Makers unite: Speeding PPE to a COVID hospital

1 month 3 weeks ago

We kick off SEASON-19, about the cost of COVID, with a dose of hope — a story about an unlikely chain of people coming together to speed PPE to a COVID hospital in Brooklyn. NYC is a couple weeks ahead of the rest of the country, we think, so there are lessons here we can all get ready to use. Especially this: Don't be afraid that what you have to offer isn't enough. Take the step in front of you, even if it's a little one.


Here's a couple ways to start

  1. You can donate to that effort to get PPE to that Brooklyn hospital here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/artcube-army-ppe-supplies
  2. There are stories like this all over, big and small. And we want as many as we can find for SEASON-19. Tell us about the ones you know at https://armandalegshow.com/contact/


... or leave a message on our hotline: (724) 276-6534. That's (724) ARM N LEG.

 

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Whoa. Welcome to SEASON-19

2 months ago

We were not expecting to bring the next season out for another couple months, but... STUFF has been happening. Is happening. We're here with you. Bring us your stories and your QUESTIONS: We'll ask the smartest people we know to tell us all what they know. go to https://www.armandalegshow.com/contact OR call our **hotline**! Yep: (724) 276-6534 -- which spells 724 ARM N LEG.

 

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Reporter's Notebook: What we've learned so far, and what's ahead.

3 months 2 weeks ago

This bonus episode turns the tables: Ace reporter Sally Herships interviews Arm and a Leg host Dan Weissmann, about what he's learned so far, and what's ahead for the show. \They dig into the stories listeners are sharing -- the lessons people say they’re learning, and the lessons they’re sharing.


And Dan previews the celebrations in store as the show hits a landmark: 500 Patreon supporters! If you haven't signed up already, there's still time to join us -- sign up by March 1 -- and earn some special rewards. https://www.patreon.com/armandalegshow

 

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10 minutes 59 seconds 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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