Episodes of An Arm and a Leg

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.

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.

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