‘An Arm and a Leg’ Podcast Tells Alarming Stories of Health Care Costs

Health care continues to be front and center as Democratic candidates for president offer up their ideas to transform the U.S. system. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is rolling out plans for permitting certain drugs to be imported from Canada, among other proposals aiming to lower costs.

A recent Gallup poll outlined the financial hardships caused by health care costs: Americans borrowed $88 billion last year to pay for health care, while one in four adults skipped medical treatments because of costs.

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Evanston journalist Dan Weissmann has heard his share of health care horror stories as the host of the podcast, “An Arm and a Leg.”

Among the more startling and memorable stories, Weissmann says, are those of “the couple who sent their insurance premium to the wrong address and were then dropped by their insurer, when the wife was just months from giving birth” and “a nighttime ER visit” for a child’s ear infection that wound up costing $3,300.

“And then there’s a woman who needs a drug that costs $500,000, causing her to move away from her family to take a job providing good insurance,” he said.

But Weissmann also shares stories of people finding creative solutions to their medical bills.

“There’s the woodworker who injured his finger and is told if he pays $350 up front on the night of his ER visit, that the hospital will take 60% off his bill,” he said. “And the brain cancer survivor who needs two MRIs per year. She shopped around and found MRIs can range from $1,000 to $10,000. Needless to say, she’s stuck with the lower-priced alternative.”

There are also stories of those who advocate for themselves, including renaissance faire workers.

“The first step when these workers file a claim is they’re put in touch with the insurance fund’s advocate who instructs them on how to advocate for themselves,” Weissmann said.

Among that advocate’s tips:

• Request a financial aid application from the hospital

• Ask the hospital about a payment plan

• Ask for a Superbill – this includes codes that match codes used by Medicare and insurance companies- it arms you with information on how much things really cost

• Be persistent

• Be polite. Don’t get angry or threaten them. You will be outgunned by their lawyers, accountants, actuaries and other experts.

• Try to get someone on your side from the hospital or insurance company, a contact who is familiar with your story.

Weissmann joins us to talk about how health care costs are impacting families across the nation. 

Contact Andrea Guthmann: @AndreaGuthmann

Related stories:

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Prescription Imports, Drug Prices Revealed: Trump’s Health Care Plans

Study Finds Americans Are Sitting Too Much, Not Exercising Enough

Trump Signs Order That Aims to Reveal Real Health Care Costs

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