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You’re helping us shape Season 3

You’re helping us shape Season 3: Here’s some of what we’re learning

About 500 of you responded to our listener survey, and you are amazing. I mean, to start with: you are SO NICE.

Here’s a small selection of things you’re saying you get from the show:

  • My sense of hopeful outrage I guess
  • Because of you guys I was able to face a lingering hospital bill. I ended up talking to the billing department and they reduced my bill by 80%!
  • The system is bananas, makes it feel like I’m not the only one.
  • I love that you don’t shy away from the nuts and bolts or geeky stuff!
  • I feel like this could be part of a consumer movement.
  • Your show is very moving. Greetings from Norway.

One thing LOTS of you are saying you like about the show — and want more of: Useful information. (Noted!)

You’re also saying you find the show entertaining, and that you appreciate the combination of real-people stories and big-picture insight. (Thank you! So nice to hear.)

One thing comes through loud and clear: We are all in this together. People listening to this show represent all ages, all incomes, all levels of education.

That includes lots of folks who work in health care, like this ER nurse in Texas: Listening to your show makes me an advocate for change. Whenever I have the opportunity, my patients get your info!

I heard similar things from doctors, physician assistants, hospital administrators, pharmacists, medical students and med-school professors.

And then there’s this:

Keep doing what you’re doing! I’m a kindergarten teacher in a low-income neighborhood, the people who are screwed by this system the hardest are my students and their families. You give me hope that things will get better and my babies will get healthier.

YES. Let’s do this.

Episodes of An Arm and a Leg

Season 2

Episode 1: We thought we had adulted properly… Caitlin and Corey Gaffer got a surprise letter from their insurance company — saying they were being dumped for non-payment. Except, as far as they knew, they were paid up.

Episode 2: To get paid, hospitals get creative. Hospital bills are too high, and insurance doesn’t cover enough. Turns out, that’s a crisis for hospitals too: more and more of us aren’t paying those bills, because we can’t. So, they’re getting creative about collecting — and offering discounts. Which raises questions about why the bills are so high to begin with.

Episode 3: How much for an MRI? Well, that depends… We look at three MRIs with four different price tags, and an enormous range. Like, from under $1,000 to about $26,000.

Episode 4: Why are drug prices so random? Meet Mr. PBM I filled a prescription recently, and the drugstore said they wanted more than 700 bucks… for an old-line generic drug. My insurance ended up knocking that down, but it was WEIRD. And it meant a big homework assignment for me. Drug pricing and PBMs.

Episode 5: The insane, surprising history behind insulin’s crazy price (and some hopeful signs in the wild) The price of insulin is iconic — doubling, tripling, multiplying like crazy, for medicine Type 1 diabetics can’t live without. Some bizaare history…and a lot of dead dogs.

Episode 6: Whoa, this medical device is spying on me. In my sleep. So my insurer can deny me coverage. That’s the rude awakening Eric Umansky got when he called the company that provided his CPAP machine — a device that helps him breathe at night.

Episode 7: So, an actor walks into a doctor’s office… Researcher Saul Weiner, MD  has been sending fake patients — actors, wired for sound — into real doctors’ offices, to learn about what actually happens, especially:  How well doctors really listen to their patients.

Episode 8: A place where they do health care more cheaply and effectively. (And yes, it’s in the U.S.) For our Season 2 finale, time for some inspiration. For 30 years, James Gingerich has run a super-effective clinic in Indiana, delivering great results at low cost — to high-need, low-income patients.

Season 1

Episode 1: This is Water, and it sucks. Let’s talk. The cost of health care is like water. We’re all surrounded by it. We don’t even see it anymore. And why am I making this show?

Episode 2: All the Marbles: One woman’s epic quest for health insurance Laura Derrick takes a drug that costs more than $500,000 a year. So when her family was going to lose their insurance, she made crazy sacrifices… and changed the course of history.

Episode 3: How one drug got its $500,000 price tag. The answer involves a suburban housewife, a 1970s TV star, and a Las Vegas maker of popcorn and nacho cheese sauce. Also: Wall Street. Produced with our friends at
99 Percent Invisible.

Episode 4: Why you (and I) will likely pick the wrong health insurance Because (as smart economists recently proved) it is super-confusing, and most of us can’t do the math. But! We found glimmers of hope. So don’t be scared.

Episode 5: So, Robin Hood’s got an approach to medical bills The health-care system — especially the financial side — can feel like a Medieval torture device. So maybe it fits that workers from Renaissance fairs have come up with a work-around.

Episode 6: Why health insurance actually sucks Turns out, insurance companies allow — even encourage — crazy price-gouging by hospitals. For example, the leg brace Blake needed was available for $150 on Amazon. But thanks to his insurance, he paid more than $500.

Episode 7: Why are ER bills so crazy? Emergency rooms often bill you a “cover charge” just for walking in the door, and it can be thousands of dollars.

Episode 8: Is it ever appropriate to fudge a little? Bari Tessler is a financial therapist, but even she gets rattled by the price of health care. Also: What my family is doing for health insurance next year.

Social

 

A place where they do health care more cheaply and effectively. (And yes, it’s in the U.S.)

For our Season 2 finale, time for some inspiration.

For 30 years, James Gingerich has run a super-effective clinic in Indiana, delivering great results at low cost — to high-need, low-income patients.

James Gingerich, founder of Maple City Health Care Center.
James Gingerich stands in front of shelves holding books that Maple City Health Care Center distributes to families with young children.

He’s not a modest guy, and two of his brags stand out — as a study in contrasts.

One is a quote from a board member that makes him sound like a big dreamer:

“People think of us as a medical organization. We’re not. We are fundamentally a peace and justice organization that happens to be engaged in our community through medical care.”

The other is the way he stands at his desk and nerds out on stats that show his clinic beating the pants off the competition, on preventive-care measures like screenings for cervical cancer, vaccination rates for two-year-olds, etc..

“OK, next: diabetes control,” he says. “Are you getting the idea here?”

At the heart of it, he says, is listening to people’s stories. The rest he calls “housekeeping.”

It’s not a fix for our whole broken system — you can’t just copy-and-paste what’s happening here — but it’s definitely pretty inspiring.

There’s a bit more in this write-up I did for our pals at Kaiser Health News.

But first!  How about taking our listener survey?

It just takes a few minutes, and you’ll be helping us out a TON: https://armandalegshow.com/survey/

Thank you! You’ll be helping us get Season 3 made.

 

An actor walks into a doctor’s office…

Dr. Saul Weiner is a physician and researcher at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin)

Researcher Saul Weiner has been sending fake patients — actors, wired for sound — into real doctors’ offices, to learn about what actually happens, especially: How well doctors really listen to their patients.

He’s tallied up what doctors miss (a lot), and how much it costs (ditto). 

In today’s episode, we hear what actually happened in one of those “secret shopper” doctor visits — with the doctor and the actor who played his patient reading from the transcript of their visit, and then unpacking what went wrong.

Also:  We are doing a listener survey!
Please take a couple minutes to fill it out. You will be helping us out a TON:  https://armandalegshow.com/survey/

Thank you!

Whoa, this medical device is spying on me. In my sleep. So my insurer can deny me coverage.

That’s the rude awakening Eric Umansky got when he called the company that provided his CPAP machine — a device that helps him breathe at night.

He got mad. And he got even, in a way: Eric is an editor at the non-profit newsroom ProPublica, and he tipped a colleague —Marshall Allen, who covers health care there.

The two of them together, in this episode, are hilarious and enlightening.

The story Marshall wrote opened up bigger issues about how insurance companies are collecting all kinds of data to use against us.

And it included at least one example of how the “little guy” can fight back sometimes, and win.

Extra fun: One of those examples features a 16 year-old Marshall Allen.

Marshall Allen, age 16, in his 1988 yearbook photo. (Photo courtesy Marshall Allen.)

Note: Eric curses a couple of times. We left it in.