Cover art for podcast An Arm and a Leg

An Arm and a Leg

91 EpisodesProduced by An Arm and a LegWebsite

A show about why health care costs so freaking much, and what we can (maybe) do about it. Hosted by award-winning reporter Dan Weissmann (Marketplace, 99 Percent Invisible, Planet Money, Reveal). Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

91 Episodes | 2018 - 2022

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

September 29th, 2022

19:26

This year, the state of California put up $100 million to produce its own insulin, and sell it for cheap. How’s it going to work? (Is it going to …

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

September 8th, 2022

26:01

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. 

The Medical-bill "Negotiation Lab"

August 18th, 2022

23:58


It’s often possible to negotiate medical bills. It sounds hard — and it can be — but what if we got it down to a science? Mapped out all the moves …

The Genetic Testing ‘Bait-and-Switch’

July 28th, 2022

18:02

Is it possible for a health care company to make enough people mad about their billing practices that it hurts their business? For one genetic testing company, maybe so. 


An Arm and a Leg listener Jessica got a test …

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

July 7th, 2022

21:14

Thomas Fisher is an emergency room doc in Chicago. His book, The Emergency, is an up-close chronicle of the COVID pandemic’s first year in his South Side ER. 


It also zooms out to tell the story of his journey as a …

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

June 16th, 2022

21:42

About a third of ER doctors now work for companies backed by private equity. A lot of those docs do not like the arrangement, which they say puts profits ahead of patients. Now, a group of ER docs are suing to kick one …

Credit Where It’s Due

May 26th, 2022

17:37

Credit reporting bureaus announced in April that they would start taking most medical debt off of people’s credit reports. At first, we weren’t sure …

“The Golden Age of Older Rectums” (for investors)

May 5th, 2022

19:56

A new golden age is dawning, and it starts where the sun don’t shine.


A listener got a pricey quote for her colonoscopy, but the medical practice …

Sick Note, pt. 2: Dang

April 21st, 2022

0:59

Dan’s COVID has hung on there for a while, kept him SUPER tired. Yoinks. Back in a couple weeks!


Meanwhile, as always, we'd love for you to:


Sick Note: Dan has COVID. (He's fine, but ...)

April 7th, 2022

2:28

Hey there — I got COVID a little before we were scheduled to tape this week's episode. Whoops!


I'm fine now, but kinda tired. Just to be on the safe …

Fighting for the Right to Help

March 24th, 2022

19:04

It’s illegal to advise someone who’s being sued for medical debt, unless you're a lawyer. Yep, really. Even in its most basic form (like helping people fill out a checklist) it’s considered the “unlicensed practice of …

Swimming with sharks

March 10th, 2022

26:12

Pharma and insurance companies play devious, clever games, competing for dollars. They’re sharks! It’d be fun to track, but they’re eating us alive.


Introducing: Half Vaxxed

February 24th, 2022

24:54

Last year we brought you the story — part caper, part tragedy — of how Philadelphia tried to hand off its COVID vaccination program to a wannabe tech …

Introducing: Last Day

February 10th, 2022

41:13

Stephanie Wittels Wachs has made the show about a topic that's actually too enraging, terrifying, and depressing for An Arm and a Leg: the opioid …

Meet your new rights under the No Surprises Act

January 27th, 2022

18:00

The No Surprises Act — a new law that protects us from some outrageous out-of-network hospital bills — takes effect this month. That's great news, but (and there’s always a but) there are some important caveats to know …

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

January 13th, 2022

23:13

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. We’re revisiting our sadly-still-relevant interview with Sarah Kliff from the New York Times, who …

Our Year in Review, with members of the Arm and a Leg team

December 30th, 2021

15:02

An Arm and a Leg wraps up a big year, and some of the team takes a moment to reflect. Consulting Managing Producer Daisy Rosario, Editor Marian Wang, …

Why rapid COVID tests are so freaking expensive

December 20th, 2021

20:45

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 …

Fighting with health insurance is easy (for Jackie Fox)

December 9th, 2021

19:01

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


Jackie Fox has a lot to …

How to avoid the crappiest health insurance.

November 24th, 2021

24:52

We kick off with a wild ride: How one journalist almost got roped into a scam.


While hunting for a new insurance plan, Mitra Kaboli got an offer that …

The Insurance Warrior takes on a $61B Company

November 11th, 2021

24:19

When Mattew Lientz needed surgery to save his life, his insurance wouldn’t cover it. Enter: Laurie Todd, the Insurance Warrior. Her first task: …

Meet the Insurance Warrior

November 1st, 2021

23:45

In 2005, Laurie Todd needed surgery to save her life. Her insurance company had no intention of paying for it. She went to war, and won. She's been helping other do the same ever since. Now, she's sharing her secrets …

We spend 12 million hours a week on the phone with health insurance

October 14th, 2021

19:39

Yup. A Stanford professor measured it. So… we should probably learn how they actually make money, understand their incentives. Here’s one clue: A lot …

Wait, that was legal until now?!?

September 30th, 2021

26:54

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 …

"We just kept right on pushing"

September 16th, 2021

25:41

Manny Lanza died because he didn't have insurance. His parents fought back, with help from New York’s favorite tabloid. After years of work by advocates and organizers, laws suddenly changed. Here’s how.


Here's a

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

September 2nd, 2021

26:02

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 …

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

August 19th, 2021

23:18

The lawyer was Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the lawyer who beat Big Tobacco in the 1990s. Later, he launched a series of ill-fated national lawsuits aimed at getting non-profit hospitals to quit price-gouging low-income …

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

August 5th, 2021

2:36

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 …

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

July 15th, 2021

10:48

An update on Jared Walker, whose viral TikTok described a little-known (and effective) method to “crush” many hospital bills, and offered to help …

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

June 30th, 2021

19:04

For years, at ProPublica, Marshall Allen has been exposing health care grifters. (He’s our kind of guy.) 

Now, he's written a book … about how to fight back. It’s called “Never Pay the First Bill.” We talked—about some …

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

June 9th, 2021

12:55

Health care insiders get stupid medical bills too. One of them taught us how to write an insurance appeal—like the one that saved her son $14,000. You can read that letter—and her notes to us about why she chose to …

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

May 19th, 2021

7:24

When Adam Woodrum's insurance denied a claim for an ER bill, he sent his story to NPR... because he happened to KNOW how to deal with it. And he …

Why picking the right insurance is so hard (bonus/encore)

April 28th, 2021

20:14

How hard is it to pick the best health insurance? ECONOMISTS find it hard. Including one who has studied the question, "How hard can it be to pick a decent insurance plan?"

Lots of people are suddenly eligible to pick …

Programming note: We're working on some cool new stuff.

April 7th, 2021

1:34

... and it's gonna take us a little while to get it ready for you— maybe a couple months. Meanwhile, we'll have little updates for you here and there.

... and it's a great time to sign up for our newsletter, where we'll …

Who's been trying to cash in on COVID vaccinations? (And how did racism help them out?)

March 17th, 2021

31:42

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 …

Revisiting insulin, as relevant (and expensive) as ever

February 25th, 2021

31:06

We're re-releasing and updating a story we first reported in 2019, about how insulin got to be so horribly expensive—the scientists who discovered it …

A legal strategy for erasing billions in medical debt— that works—from a 60-second video.

February 11th, 2021

26:29

Yep. This viral TikTok video's recipe for "crushing" medical bills is legally sound. And IRS filings from thousands of hospitals attest to $2.7 …

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

January 28th, 2021

24:04

Jeff is a lawyer who used to represent medical-bill collectors in court. ("I was a bad guy, for sure," he says.)

But he switched sides, and he's here …

Mini-episode: Two small doses of good news

January 14th, 2021

10:50

2021 is off to a rough start, but we've got a couple of small things that don't completely suck.

First, a new federal rule could help cut through one …

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

December 29th, 2020

21:58

Former health-care executive Wendell Potter spent part of 2020 publishing high-profile apologies for the lies he says he told the American people in …

From our reporter's notebook: What we learned in 2020, and what's ahead, with T.K. Dutes

December 18th, 2020

23:29

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 …

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

December 11th, 2020

19:13

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 …

Andy Slavitt gives us a COVID check-in from 40,000 feet

December 4th, 2020

27:40

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 …

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

November 23rd, 2020

21:51

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 has been asking readers to send in their COVID-testing …

How to Keep Cool in a Tough Moment: A self-defense expert breaks it down

November 12th, 2020

27:56

Possibly our most-useful episode ever. A listener asked: How do I remain cool when calling insurance companies?


We called a veteran self-defense …

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

October 29th, 2020

22:35

In a classic—and hilarious—David vs. Goliath story, Jeffrey Fox takes on a huge hospital over an outrageous bill, and wins.


He's a bit of an expert in …

How to handle debt collectors, with the TikTok Mom and a legal expert

October 15th, 2020

28:08

There's a reason Shaunna Burns went viral with her videos about dealing with debt collectors: She used to be one, so she knows a few things. (Also …

Your TikTok Mom has some medical-bill tips, and a hell of a story

October 1st, 2020

25:07

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 …

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

September 17th, 2020

27:14

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 …

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

September 3rd, 2020

25:30

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 …

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

August 20th, 2020

23:17

Steve Benasso is an HR director who, his colleagues will tell you, hates insurance companies, and hates seeing people getting taken advantage of. So …

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

August 6th, 2020

27:39

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 …

We’re back! Dealing with the cost of health care seems pretty relevant right now.

July 27th, 2020

2:06

There's no time like a pandemic to (a) learn to fight back against the awful cost of health care. And (b) have a good time doing it. Yep. Let’s go.

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

May 27th, 2020

22:12

We wrap up our COVID-19 popup season with stories from three folks with very different takes on what we've learned so far about what the pandemic is …

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

May 20th, 2020

21:54

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.


From inside the health insurance company: Angst, and advice we can use.

May 13th, 2020

16:32

A listener, who has worked in health insurance for decades, wrote in. "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. Along …

The severe, weird recession... in health care. And what it means for our wallets

May 6th, 2020

18:12

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 …

COVID tests are free, except... when they're not

April 29th, 2020

21:13

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

Like a fire with no one to call: 'We've left no latent capacity in health care.'

April 22nd, 2020

17:05

Ryan Gamlin spent a decade working on the financial side of health care, before going to medical school. Now, as an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles, …

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

April 15th, 2020

32:04

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 …

Makers unite: Speeding PPE to a COVID hospital

April 6th, 2020

20:55

We kick off SEASON-19, about the cost of COVID, with a dose of hope — a story about an unlikely chain of people coming together to speed PPE to a COVID hospital in Brooklyn. NYC is a couple weeks ahead of the rest of …

Whoa. Welcome to SEASON-19

March 30th, 2020

1:42

We were not expecting to bring the next season out for another couple months, but... STUFF has been happening. Is happening. We're here with you. Bring us your stories and your QUESTIONS: We'll ask the smartest people …

Reporter's Notebook: What we've learned so far, and what's ahead.

February 14th, 2020

33:45

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. \They dig into the stories listeners are …

Watch Your Back: Outwitting the Back-Pain Industry

January 2nd, 2020

28:59

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 …

Christmas in July

December 26th, 2019

26:17

How one family's tragedy became, decades later, a $1 million gift to their neighbors. This story has everything: Laughter. Tears. Family. Community. Generosity. Softball. AND: Punk rock. John Oliver. A taco bar.

Hosted …

This hospital sued thousands of patients — until a reporter called them out.

December 19th, 2019

23:21

They say the problem with relying on journalists to embarrass providers into caving on crazy bills is, there aren’t enough journalists to go …

Can they freaking DO that?!?

December 12th, 2019

27:39

A woman got a bill from a medical testing lab she’s never heard of, for $35. Then, a follow-up bill said if she didn’t pay up right away, that price …

Health Care: The Musical

November 27th, 2019

22:17

It would sound a LOT like Explanation of Benefits, which is a musical revue that actually played in New York City in 2019.


... so it would feature a …

My Neighbor the Health-Care Ninja

November 21st, 2019

29:52

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 …

Mom vs. Texas

November 14th, 2019

28:53

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 …

Hey there! Season 3 is coming November 14. Here’s a preview.

October 31st, 2019

2:23

It’s going to be REALLY fun. Also, maybe useful. Catch you here soon!

Also, here’s a little video preview.


Bonus news: Did you know we're nominated for …

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

July 31st, 2019

22:57

For our Season 2 finale, time for some inspiration.

For 30 years, James Gingerich has run a super-effective clinic in Indiana, delivering great …

An actor walks into a doctor’s office…

July 24th, 2019

17:56


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

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

July 17th, 2019

16:58


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 …

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

July 10th, 2019

26:36

The price of insulin is iconic — doubling, tripling, multiplying like crazy, for medicine Type 1 diabetics can’t live without.

To understand it, we …

Coming next week: The price of insulin

July 3rd, 2019

1:53

As we started working on season two of this podcast, there was one topic that seemed like we just had to look at: insulin.

… and I wondered: There are …

Why are drug prices so random? Meet Mr. PBM

June 26th, 2019

18:29

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 …

How much for an MRI? Well, that depends…

June 19th, 2019

22:00

This week, we look at three MRIs with four different price tags, and an enormous range. 



Liz Salmi and a view of her brain. (Photo: Kaiser Health News)

The first two price tags come from listener Liz Salmi, who has been …

To get paid, hospitals get creative

June 12th, 2019

15:30

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 …

We thought we had adulted properly

June 4th, 2019

23:30

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.

As it turned out, they’d made a couple of small …

We’re back! Here’s a taste of Season 2, launching June 4.

May 23rd, 2019

2:06

Hey there! We’ve been working hard on season 2. We hope you enjoy this preview — there’s so much good (and frightening) stuff ahead.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

A “deal” on health insurance comes with troubling strings

December 19th, 2018

22:03

Bari Tessler is a little famous as a “financial therapist,” but even she gets rattled by the price of health care.


Her story is complicated. And very relatable.


Bari chose to use a Christian "health share" instead of …

Why are ER bills so horrible? Sarah Kliff spent a year finding out. (Season One, episode 7)

December 12th, 2018

19:26

Emergency rooms often bill you a “cover charge” just for walking in the door, and it can be thousands of dollars.

That’s in addition to the huge …

Why Health Insurance Actually Sucks (Season One, episode 6)

December 5th, 2018

16:32


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 One, episode 5)

November 27th, 2018

15:37


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.

In this episode I meet Robin Hood …

Why you (and I) will likely pick the wrong health-insurance plan (Season One, episode 4)

November 21st, 2018

18:41


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.


We’d like to hear how you’re choosing your health insurance for …

How one drug got its $500,000 price tag. (With 99 Percent Invisible– Season One, episode 3)

November 14th, 2018

24:31


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 …

All the Marbles: One woman’s epic quest for health insurance (Season One, episode 2)

November 14th, 2018

19:06


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 …

This is Water, and it sucks. Let’s talk. (Season One, episode 1)

November 14th, 2018

19:58


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

It’s like that famous speech by …

A podcast about the cost of health care, coming November 2018

October 11th, 2018

3:57

The spiraling cost of medical care shapes people’s lives: The jobs we’re afraid to leave because of insurance, the risk that a trip to the doc could …

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