The woman who beat an $8,000 hospital fee

Facility fees are becoming more common – and one woman was determined not to pay.
White and yellow text on green background: How middlemen drive up medical bills: they cut back your insurance coverage and take a big cut themselves.

Meet the Middleman’s Middleman

Way behind the scenes, a hidden player makes billions — cutting what your health insurance covers. Meet MultiPlan.

Staying on Medicaid seems tougher than it should be

States were blocked from their annual Medicaid re-enrollment during the COVID health emergency. Now they’re catching up and taking away coverage for millions.
Text: Have you ever been charged a facility fee from the doctor's office? We want to hear from you.

We’re digging into “facility fees.” We need your help.

Why we’re collecting your stories about these sneaky fees.

The Hack

A cyberattack against a health care giant gets us thinking about antitrust: The idea that companies this big can be dangerous, and what we can maybe do about it.
Yellow text in horror movie font "Son of Medicare: Attack of the Machine." Text in white: In Medicare Advantage, some plans used an algorithm to call the shots.

Son of Medicare: Attack of the Machines

How UnitedHealth used an algorithm to cut off care for seniors in Medicare Advantage plans.

The Medicare Episode

When you turn 65 you have a high stakes decision to make: original Medicare or Medicare Advantage. And what you choose has major implications down the line. We break it down.
Image text: Is insulin cheaper now? We break it down. Background image: insulin pens.

Wait, is insulin cheaper now?

We break down some news about insulin — the so-called “poster child” for the high cost of prescription drugs — and what activists still want to see happen.
White and yellow text on green background that reads "How to keep your cool while fighting with the health care system, according to a self defense coach

Self defense 101: Keeping your cool while you fight

Maybe our most useful episode ever: A self defense expert gives us tips for keeping it together when dealing with the health care industrial complex.
Text: One last tip before 2024 (Pass it on) Image (semi-transparent, behind text): A hand with a pencil, writing a note.

One last tip before 2024

What some hospitals may not tell you about charity care.
White text on a green background that reads "When hospitals sue patients. Part two: what if they stopped?". Background is green-hued photogaph of a hospital hallway.

When hospitals sue patients, part 2

Part two of our story with Scripps News and the Baltimore Banner: In some states, hospital lawsuits have dropped dramatically.
Green background with photo depicting hospital exterior. White text that reads "When hospitals sue patients. Part one: what are they doing this for?"

When hospitals sue patients, part 1

We investigate why hospitals sue patients over unpaid medical bills, with Scripps News and the Baltimore Banner.
White and yellow text on green background that reads "to get health insurance they made a movie...Ellen needs insurance. It's pretty funny." A photograph of a blonde white woman in a black dress sitting next to a white man in a blue shirt. They are sitting on a porch overlooking the Hollywood hills.

To qualify for health insurance, this couple made a movie

To qualify for health insurance, Ellen Haun and Dru Johnston made a movie about health insurance. It’s called “Ellen Needs Insurance.”

“Your Money or Your Life”: Dr. Luke Messac’s book on the history of medical debt

Luke Messac’s new book, “Your Money or Your Life,” traces the history of debt collection in American medicine. He’s a doctor and a Ph.D. historian.

Paging Dr. Glaucomflecken (via the Nocturnists)

As Dr. Glaucomflecken, Will Flanary’s punchy and funny videos on our awful health care system have made him a fan favorite. Our pals at The Nocturnists got a chat.
Yellow and white text on green background: the fault in our patents part 2. John Green versus Johnson and Johnson. *and global activists *and drug patent games.

John Green vs. Johnson & Johnson (part 2)

Part two of our globe-spanning story about drugs, patents, and YouTube megastar John Green.
A photo of the author John Green, with the headline "The Fault in Our Patents: John Green vs. Johnson & Johnson." A logo for "An Arm and a Leg" displays in one corner.

John Green vs. Johnson & Johnson (part 1)

Writer John Green rallied his fans around a fight over the cost of a tuberculosis drug. And: the story shows why so many drugs cost so f-ing much.
White and yellow text on green background that reads "Why ambulance bills are so random. And why the No Surprises Act doesn't help."

How to Get a Surprise Bill on Your Way to the Hospital

Ambulance rides are one of the most common sources of surprise medical bills. So why did Congress leave them out of the No Surprises Act?

Wait, what’s a PBM (and how do they work)?

If you've been told your insurance won't cover your meds, you've met a PBM: a pharmacy benefits manager. And experts say they play a big role in jacking up drug prices overall. But how, exactly? We took a deep dive.

Credit Card, Please

A listener's doctor wanted her credit card info up front , before her appointment. She wondered: Do I need to give it to them? We did too.
Screenshot of a tweet from Alex Shteynshluyger MD that reads "Optum is now running a Payday loan business targeting medical practices to which UHC fails to issue timely payments, denies + delays. Genius!" White text on green background reads "We checked this out and learned about a 'behemoth.'"

A ‘payday loan’ from a health care behemoth

What does it mean when a single company runs the most U.S. health insurance plans, owns a network employing more doctors than anyone else, and starts to get into the business of loaning money to doctors? Get to know UnitedHealth Group: the Behemoth.
White and yellow text on a green background that reads "'It's become a bit of my superpower to help friends find an in-network therapist.' - Abigail Burman. Here's how she does it."

Mental health ‘ghost networks’ — and a ghost-buster

Trying to find a therapist can be a horror story. It's also a ghost story , as in "ghost networks": lists of therapists your insurance says are in-network, but *poof* they're not. 

Now, meet a volunteer Ghost-buster.
On the left side of the panel: White and yellow text on green backround. Text reads "A hospital sued Lisa French for $229,000. They'd quoted her $1,337. How courts ruled, and why it matters." On the right side of the panel: An Arm and a Leg logo.

A $229,000 medical bill goes to court

Before surgery, a hospital told Lisa French she'd owe $1,337. After insurance paid them , more than they'd expected , the hospital billed her $229K. And sued her for it. Colorado's Supreme Court decided the case last year. The ruling has big implications.
White text on green background that reads "''You start to see this model, and it makes you think: Can things be different in health care?' - Dr. Ricardo Nuila." The right side of the image features the cover of Ricardo Nuila's book, entitled The People's Hospital.

A doctor’s love letter to ‘the People’s Hospital’

What if we had a decent, publicly-funded health system , available to everybody, with or without insurance? We've got one, says Dr. Ricardo Nuila. It's where he works. And he thinks we could have itall over. Yes, really.
White and yellow text on green background that says "OK, we can't win 'em all. But there's a lot to learn from the attempt. One listener shares."

Lessons from “wrestling with a giant”

The ER visit was brief and uneventful. The bill was $1,339. Our listener decided to push back. He didn't win, but he learned a lot , and so did we.
White and yellow words on green background. "There's just so little to lose, and so much to gain, by calling these medical institutions out for what they're doing wrong. - Lauren, who sued a hospital in small claims court."

The bill looked like BS. So she took it to small claims court.

A listener wrote: "I sued a hospital in small claims court." She lost, but felt like she'd won , and learned a ton. Now she wants to encourage more people to try it.
Yellow text on green background that reads "Can They Freaking DO that?! Sometimes. And sometimes we can fight back. 2023 Edition"

Can They Freaking Do That?!? (2023 Edition)

Can a random medical provider send you an outrageously random bill? Sure. Can you fight back and win sometimes? Yes. Yes, sometimes you can. It might even be fun.
Yellow and white text on green background. Text reads "the Arm and a Leg team looks back on 2022... and how the stories we cover played out in our own lives."

2022 in Review

The Arm and a Leg team looks back on 2022. 
Yellow text on green background. "This was my introduction to health care. Golly. It was way too much at one time." - Susan Rice."

Like Pulling Teeth

Health insurance usually doesn't cover dental work. It's as if teeth aren't part of our bodies. But when a car hit Susan and knocked out half her teeth, that WAS supposed to be covered. So why has her insurer batted her away?

Is this the best video on health insurance ever?

Listeners told us: 'you gotta watch this video from Brian David Gilbert about health insurance. You're going to love it.' And we did. Then, we got Brian to fill us in on the whole story behind it.
Yellow text on green background that reads ""A lot of people were already in the situation that now we, as a country, are grappling with." - Tyler Barbarin, New Orleans Abortion Fund

Insurance in a post-Roe world, and a grassroots network of abortion funds

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put some people's health insurance into flux. But accessing abortion was already hard for lots of people. That's where abortion funds step in.

A listener asks: Could NOT having insurance be a better deal?

Open enrollment for health insurance is here. A listener asks: "Should my son even sign up for insurance? I may have found a better deal."

California plans to make its own insulin and sell it super-cheap. Really.

Lots of seniors have to pay thousands of dollars for drugs,even tens of thousands,or do without life-saving medicine. That's finally going to change.
Photo of Vanderbilt U health-policy professor Stacie Dusetzina, with the quote: "The idea that you could have such poor coverage was just kind of staggering."

Congress fixed (a piece of) Medicare. It only took a few decades.

Lots of seniors have to pay thousands of dollars for drugs,even tens of thousands,or do without life-saving medicine. That's finally going to change.
Yellow and white text on green background that reads "Negotiating medical bills can workbut it can be uncertain, scary. What if there were a science to it?" Stock art depicts laptop computer with arrayed on top of keyboard, spelling S.O.S.

The Medical Bill “Negotiation Lab”

It's often possible to negotiate medical billsbut not always easy. Could we get it down to a science? The folks at the nonprofit Dollar For are running a big experiment. We got to visit the lab.
Yellow and white text on a green background. Text reads: "Can a company's billing practices get enough people mad enough that the company pays a price?" A photograph in the bottom right of the frame depicts blood tests.

The Genetic Testing ‘Bait-and-Switch’

Can a health care company make enough people mad to faceactual consequences? In this case, maybe yes.

One ER Doc’s Journey Through the Pandemic , and the Health Care System

Dr. Thomas Fisher's book 'The Emergency' chronicles the COVID pandemic's first year in his Chicago ER. It's a grieving love letter to his patients and his community.
Private equity might run your local emergency room. Meet the docs suing to kick them out.

These docs are trying to kick private equity out of their ER

Emergency rooms all over the country are staffed by private equity-backed companies that doctors say put profits before patients. Now a group of docs is suing to get them out of California ERs.

Credit Where It’s Due

Credit reporting bureaus announced in April that they would start taking most medical debt off of people's credit reports. It's a bigger deal than we thought. 
\graphic that reads "Private equity is everywhere. Really." Photographs on green background include a scan of a human abdomen and a calendar with the word 'colonoscopy' inscribed.\

“The Golden Age of Older Rectums” , for investors

A listener got a pricey quote for her colonoscopy, but the practice she visited seemed like "the only game in town." We scoped it out and learned the surprising reason why: private equity.

Fighting for the right to help

A non-profit called Upsolve wants to train people like pastors, social workers, and librarians to help people know their rights and prepare them to represent themselves in court.
Photo of a shark. Caption reads "filling a prescription means swimming with the sharks. A guide to dangerous waters."

Swimming with sharks

Pharma and insurance insurance companies play incredible, devious, clever games, competing for dollars. They're sharks! And they want to eat us up. Here's a survival guide to those games.
Text Everything you need to know about the No Surprises Act. What it does (and doesn't) protect us from. Logo: An Arm and a Leg

Meet your new rights under the No Surprises Act

A new federal law, the No Surprises Act, protects us from some of the worst out-of-network hospital bills. But there are catches and traps to avoid. We break down what it covers, what to look out for, and who to call if something's not right.

2022 update: How to avoid a big bill for your COVID test (feat. Sarah Kliff)

COVID testing,the kind they send to a lab, is supposed to be free in the U.S. But it's never been quite that simple.

Our year in review

As An Arm and a Leg wraps up a big year, some of the team behind the show takes a moment to reflect.

Why rapid COVID tests are so freaking expensive

Who's making a buck: rapid test edition. Rapid, at-home COVID tests are pretty much essential if you want to see friends and family this holiday season, and stay safe. But they're expensive and can be hard to find. What the heck happened?

Fighting with health insurance is easyfor Jacqueline Fox

Health insurance is like some medieval horror, says law professor Jacqueline Fox. But, funny thing: She also says insurance fights are easy. For her. She's been helping people win them for 30 years.

How to avoid the crappiest health insurance.

It's open enrollment: Time to pick health insurance. How one journalist almost got roped into a scam. Plus, some top health insurance brains guide us through open enrollment this year.
Green graphic with photo of smiling, grey-haired woman with her hands on her hips. Text reads:"I'm going to be the secret weapon." The Insurance Warrior's battle plan to save a man's life... fighting his employer.

The Insurance Warrior takes on a $61B Company

When Mattew Lientz needed surgery to save his life, his insurance wouldn't cover it. Enter: Laurie Todd, the Insurance Warrior. Her first task: Figuring out who Matthew was really fighting, and how big the battle really was.

The Insurance Warrior, part 1

Laurie Todd calls herself the "Insurance Warrior." She helps people get their insurance companies to pay for treatment, and has written detailed books sharing her knowledge. But that wealth of knowledge was hard won.
Image of old-fashioned phone receiver, plus text: "We spend 12 million hours on the phone with insurance *every week.* Shouldn't we learn how they really make their money? Hint: Often, insurance isn't their real job.

We spend 12 million hours a week talking to our health insurance

Sowe should probably learn how they actually make money,understand their incentives. One clue: Often, providing insurance isn't their real job.

Wait, that was legal until now?!

Hospitals in Maryland were suing patients over bills that should've been forgiven. It wasn't illegal , until now. How a coalition changed that this year. Plus, our friends at Dollar For build their bill-crushing army, one Zoom training at a time. 
Image of Jared Walker with caption "I crush medical bills. Try me." Additional text: "Top tips for using charity care to crush medical debt. From a guy who knows. Jared Walker @DollarFor. Web extra. No audio here. Still awesome"

Using charity care to crush medical bills: Six top tips.

Jared Walker, whose 60-second TikTok video on charity care went super-viral, is now training volunteers to help people apply for aid. We sat in. And took notes.  

“We just kept right on pushing” … and laws changed

A 24-year-old died because he didn't have insurance. His parents fought back. With help from a tabloid reporter,and seasoned advocates,laws changed.
Text: A tiny provision in the giant Affordable Care Act protects some patients from outrageous hospital bills. Just one Senator pushed for it... then voted against the whole thing.

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

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 bill. Plus, how the battle over the ACA "broke America", no big.
Graphic advertizing the episode that reads: "When the lawyer who beat Big Tobacco fought Big Hospitals for price-gouging poor patients... the case went up in smoke. (But he did help start something that's still going.)"

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

Dick Scruggs is the guy who beat Big Tobacco. But when he took on Big Hospitals... it didn't go so great.

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

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.
Image of Jared Walker on Tiktok, plus the following text: "Remember this guy? After his viral TikTok, Jared Walker recruited a mini-army of volunteers, who have logged charity-care policies at 2700 hospitals, and built an online system to CRUSH a TON OF MEDICAL DEBT

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

Update on Jared Walker, whose viral TikTok described a little-known (and effective) method to "crush" many hospital bills. He's been responding to a mountain of requests for help,and building a system to respond more effectively, thanks to a small army of whip-smart volunteers. 

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

We talk with Marshall Allen,about some of the best tips in his book Never Pay the First Bill; about how you can't win 'em all, and about why it's worth learning all you can and giving it your best shot.

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

We talk with one health care industry insider who has mastered the art of the insurance appeal. Because even the folks behind the scenes get stuck with big medical bills sometimes. 
Text: His son fell off a bike. The hospital wanted $19,000 for stitiching the kid up. And his insurance said, "Yeah, pass. This is on you." He knew what to do. now we do too.

Mini-episode: One guy skirts a medical-bill trap, and shares the secret.

With COVID vaccinations ramping up, it's time to check in: Who's been trying to make a buck? And who's been doing their best to serve the folks who need help the most? In Philadelphia, the good, the bad, and the ugly have all been on vivid display.

Who’s been trying to make a buck on COVID vaccinations? (And how did racism help them out?)

With COVID vaccinations ramping up, it's time to check in: Who's been trying to make a buck? And who's been doing their best to serve the folks who need help the most? In Philadelphia, the good, the bad, and the ugly have all been on vivid display.
Black and white photo of two men on a rooftop, with a dog, labeled: "These guys discovered insulin almost 100 years ago. They wanted it to be cheap. They didn't even want to patent it. What the heck happened?" AND: Color photo of Anthony DiFranco, today, holding a plastic model of a complex molecule, with the words: "And: What citizen-scientists, hackers, and activists are doing about it today."

Revisiting insulin, more relevant than ever.

Revisiting and updating a story from 2019: How insulin got to be so horribly expensive,the scientists who discovered it did NOT want price or profits to keep it away from people who need it,and what some people are doing about it, today.
Inset: guy with mustache, captioned "I crush medical bills. TEST ME." Plus the heading: "This 60-second video offers a legal recipe for zapping billions in medical debt. Guess what? It works."

Could billions in medical debt get zapped by the legal strategy from this 60-second video?

Yep. A viral TikTok video offers a legally-sound recipe for "crushing" medical bills, via charity-care laws. Government filings show it could wipe out billions in debts every year,with enough elbow grease. Jared Walker and his group Dollar For say they've done a few million already.
Text: "I was the bad guy, that's for sure." Jeff is a lawyer, who used to represent medical-bill collectors. He switched sides. Now he's spilling the tea. Secret #1: WE HAVE RIGHTS

A former “bad guy” lawyer shows us how the dark machinery works. And our rights.

Jeff used to represent medical-bill collectors in court. But he switched sides, and he's here to tell us what he knows.

For instance, we have more rights than we probably know. (Getting them enforced can be tough, but he's got some tips there too.)

And his portait of how the dark machinery works is... kind of hilarious.

Mini-episode: Two small doses of good news

2021 is off to a rough start, but here are a couple of small things that don't completely suck. First, a new federal rule could help cut through one completely-ridiculous issue. Then, a listener describes how he headed off an insurance nightmare, using what he learned from this show.

A 21st-century Christmas Carol: How one Scrooge became a health-care whistleblower

Former health-care executive Wendell Potter spent part of 2020 publishing high-profile apologies for the work he used to do, the lies he says he told the American people for his old employers,and trying to debunk the myths he once sold. The story of how he became a whistle-blower is a modern-day Christmas Carol.

A peek inside our reporter’s notebook: What we’ve learned in 2020, and where we’re headed, with T.K. Dutes

This episode turns the tables: Host Dan Weissmann gets interviewed about what he's learned this year, and what's ahead for the show, with T.K. Dutes, an ace radio host and podcast-maker ... who was a nurse in a previous life, so she knows a thing or two about the health-care system.

Fight! My family tries to pick health insurance for next year. COVID makes it harder.

Keeping the plan we've got means paying $200 a month more. But... would a "cheaper" plan cost us more in the long run?  It depends! And COVID makes it a lot more complicated. This stinks.

You can hear my wife and me try to puzzle the whole thing out, and then I debrief with an expert. Who leaves me reminded how lucky we are to have the options we do. HEALTH INSURANCE SUCKS.

But the alternative is so much worse.

Andy Slavitt gives us a pandemic check-in, the 40,000-foot view

Andy Slavitt, who ran a big chunk of health care for the Obama administration, has spent 2020 talking with almost everybody who knows anything about the COVID pandemic, and sharing what he learns in real time, first on Twitter, then on his pandemic podcast "In the Bubble." When we wanted an episode taking a look at the big picture,what we've learned so far from the pandemic and what we might expect next,Andy was the person we wanted to talk to.

How to avoid a big bill for your COVID test, with Sarah Kliff of the New York Times

They're supposed to be free. And usually they are. But sometimes... things happen. Here's how to keep them from happening to YOU.
New York Times reporter Sarah Kliff asked readers to send in their COVID-testing bills; she's gotten hundreds,and seen the most common ways things go sideways.

A self-defense expert’s guide to keeping cool in a tough moment

A listener asked: How do I remain cool when calling insurance companies?
We called a self-defense teacher,because self-defense more than hitting and kicking. It's about standing up for yourself in all kinds of difficult situations. Which means using your words.

David v Goliath: How to beat a big hospital, using small claims court

In a classic,and hilarious,David vs. Goliath story, Jeffrey Fox takes on a big hospital over an outrageous bill, and wins.
He's a bit of an expert in using small claims court to get satisfaction, and he's got detailed instructions for all of us.

How to handle debt collectors, with the TikTok Mom and an expert lawyer

There's a reason Shaunna Burns went viral with TikTok videos about dealing with debt collectors: She used to be one, so she knows a few things. (Also she's smart and funny.)  We fact-checked her advice with a legal expert: Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. Who said: Yep, most of Shaunna's advice totally checks out.

Your TikTok mom has some medical-bill tips. And a hell of a story.

Forty-something mom Shaunna Burns went viral on TikTok, thanks in part to a series of videos dishing out real-talk advice on fighting outrageous medical bills. She's become the virtual mom that thousands of Gen-Z followers love,and she's got stories that'll curl your hair. (Yep, medical bills figure into some of them.)

A Blast of Hope and Humanity: Here’s what perseverance looks like

Laura Derrick fought and endured for decades. When medical bills threatened to swamp her family, she made huge sacrifices, worked unbelievably hard... and helped change the course of history.

In a moment when we're all enduring a LOT, this is a great time for Laura's story. It's one of the first stories we ever told on this show, and it has special resonance right now.

Bonus: We catch up with Laura for an update.

She tangled with health insurance every day for 25 years. And loved it. Here’s what she can teach us.

Barbara Faubion got up every day psyched to go to work,which she says puzzled her friends. "They'd go, 'You love your job?!? You spend your whole day talking to an insurance company. Are you kidding me?'"

She wasn't kidding. Because she loved to win, and she was really, really good at untangling other people's health-insurance problems.

How to fight like a bulldog (against bogus medical bills and insurance denials)

Steve Benasso is an HR director who, his colleagues will tell you, hates insurance companies, and hates seeing people getting taken advantage of. So he fights off weird medical bills and bogus insurance denials for those colleagues. "I am a bulldog on this stuff," he says. "I do it every month." And on this episode, he tells us how he does it.

Financial self-defense school, now in session: Make your own luck.

If you need medical care, it's like you've entered a casino, playing for your financial life, with the deck stacked against you. Lucky for us, we get insight , and tips the dealer WON'T tell you, from ace reporter Celia Llopis-Jepsen.

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

We wrap up our COVID-19 popup season with three 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.

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

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, with a heck of a story, and tips that lots of us can use.

From inside the health insurance company: Angst and advice

A listener, who has worked in health insurance for decades, wrote in after a recent episode. "I have listened to all the episodes in this podcast, and there are times I come away feeling bad working for the insurance company."

We talked. In addition to angst, she shared insights and advice we all can use.
Famous economist Justin Wolfers tweets his surprise at how much of the recession is health care

The severe, very weird recession… in health care. And what it means to our wallets.

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.
Anna Davis Abel's tweet about her experience with Aetna, which went viral.

COVID tests are free, except… when they’re not

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 not to fall in.)

And: The way people responded to her tweet was generous, moving, and ... complicated.

Like a fire, with no one to call: ‘We’ve left no latent capacity in health care’

Ryan Gamlin spent a decade working on the financial side of health care, before going to medical school. Now, as a doctor, 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 last summer too, when a California wildfire came within feet of the hospital where he was working. But there was a difference.

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

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?

Makers unite: Speeding PPE to a COVID hospital. A dose of hope.

Here's a dose of hope for the first episode of SEASON-19, our dive into the cost of COVID.

People quote Mr. Rogers a lot these days, about what to do in a crisis: Find the helpers. This is a story about people deciding to become the helpers, finding each other.
Sally Herships and Dan Weissmann

Bonus: Peek inside our reporter’s notebook. What we’ve learned and where we’re headed, with Sally Herships

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.
Back Pain Surgery Cathryn Jakobson Ramin Crooked

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.
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.
Left, a photo of Iris Wachs, a toddler. Right, a photo of Stephanie Wittels Wachs, her mom. Words: Iris was born with mild hearing loss. Turns out: Insurance didn't cover hearing aids for kids. So her mom went to war and got Texas law changed. Yep.

Mom vs. Texas

Season 3 - Episode 1
Stephanie Wittels Wachs has a daughter born with hearing loss, 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.
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.