Episodes

Journalist Cathryn Jakobson Ramin says, of her six-year investigation of the back-pain industry: "As the story evolved, the journalist in me relished each appalling revelation. As a patient, however, I felt as if I'd narrowly avoided stepping off a curb in front of a bus."

Watch your back: Outwitting the back-pain industry with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

Season 3 - Episode 8
Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, an investigative reporter with a bad back, spent years researching the $100-billion back-pain industry. She found that the most commonly-prescribed treatments, including surgery, frequently do not work — and often leave people a lot worse off. She also learned what does work.
Collage of photos relating to the Denny Buehler Memorial Foundation

Christmas in July. One family’s tragedy becomes a $1 million gift to their neighbors

Season 3 - Episode 7
This story has everything: Community. Generosity. Softball. Beer.

... AND: Punk rock. John Oliver. A taco bar. And the erasure of $1 million in medical debts.
Journalist Wendi Thomas She is pictured in front of an image of the hospital, with a quote saying says the hospital was shamed into changing its practices.

A hospital sued thousands of patients. Then a reporter called them out.

Season 3 - Episode 6
In Memphis, reporter Wendi Thomas found that the city’s biggest hospital routinely sued its patients over unpaid bills, despite making tidy profits.

Thomas did such a good job making a stink about it that after a couple of months, the hospital dropped more than 6,500 lawsuits and erased the debts.

Can They Freaking Do That?

Season 3 - Episode 5
A woman gets a bill from a medical testing lab she’s never heard of, for $35. Not long after, a follow-up bill arrives. This one says if she doesn’t pay right away, the price is going up — way up: to nearly $1,300.

If they’re going to take you for $3,000 — for stitches! — why can’t they at least tell you the price upfront?

Season 3 - Episode 4
Sarah Macsalka has seen the stories about how expensive an emergency room visit can be, even for a minor complaint. So when her seven year-old son Cameron gashed his knee on a weekend morning in June, the ER was NOT where her family headed first.

What if this podcast were a musical? Well here’s what it would sound like.

Season 3 - Episode 3
It would sound a LOT like Explanation of Benefits, which is a musical revue that actually played in New York City in 2019. Created and performed by a young NYC troupe called Heck No Techno, Explanation of Benefits is a musical revue about the sad history of U.S. health care, filled with smart, funny songs.

My Neighbor the Health Care Ninja

Season 3 - Episode 2
Meredith Balogh has spent years learning to navigate the financial side of the health-care system. She’s a type-one diabetic, she’s never had a lot of money, and for years she didn’t have health insurance. It hasn’t been easy, but she’s become a master. She's a health-care ninja.

Mom vs. Texas

Season 3 - Episode 1
Stephanie Wittels Wachs has a daughter born hearing impaired, which is how she found out insurance didn't cover hearing aids for kids. Those start at $6,000 and only last a few years. Stephanie teamed up with a few other moms to change Texas law... and won.
Stephanie is a terrific storyteller.
James Gingerich, founder of Maple City Health Care Center.

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

Season 2 - Episode 8
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.

An actor walks into a doctor’s office…

Season 2 - Episode 7
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.

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

Season 2 - Episode 6
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.
Anthony Di Franco holds a 3-D printed model of an insulin molecule at Counter Culture Labs in Oakland.

The surprising history behind insulin’s absurd price (and some hopeful signs in the wild)

Season 2 - Episode 5
The price of insulin is iconic — doubling, tripling, multiplying like crazy, for medicine Type 1 diabetics can’t live without. To understand it, we went back almost 100 years and dug up some surpising parts of the history of insulin...and some hopeful signs out there today.

Why are drug prices so random? Meet Mr. PBM

Season 2 - Episode 4
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.

How much for an MRI? Well, that depends…

Season 2 - Episode 3
This week, we look at three MRIs with four different price tags, and an enormous range.

To get paid, hospitals get creative

Season 2 - Episode 2
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.

We thought we had adulted properly

Season 2 - Episode 1
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.

Is it ever appropriate to fudge a little?

Season 1 - Episode 8
Bari Tessler is a little famous as a “financial therapist,” but even she gets rattled by the price of health care.
healthcare costs, medical bills, hospital bills

Why are ER bills so crazy? With Sarah Kliff of Vox.com

Season 1 - Episode 7
Emergency rooms often bill you a “cover charge” just for walking in the door, and it can be thousands of dollars.
Pissed Off Sick Boy

Why Health Insurance Actually Sucks

Season 1 - Episode 6
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.

So, Robin Hood’s got an approach to medical bills.

Season 1 - Episode 5
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.

Why you (and I) will likely pick the wrong health-insurance plan

Season 1 - Episode 4
Because as smart economists recently proved it is super-confusing, and most of us can’t do the math.

How one drug got its $500,000 price tag. (With 99 Percent Invisible)

Season 1 - Episode 3
The answer involves a suburban housewife, a 1970s TV star, and a Las Vegas maker of popcorn and nacho cheese sauce. Also: Wall Street.

All the Marbles: One woman’s epic quest for health insurance

Season 1 - Episode 2
Laura Derrick takes a drug that costs more than $500,000 a year.

This is Water, and it sucks. Let’s talk.

Season 1 - Episode 1
When I first started talking about doing a show about the cost of health care… everybody had a story. Including me.