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An Arm and a Leg': How One State Protects Patients From Hospital Lawsuits

Analysis  |  By Kaiser Health News  
   October 07, 2021

This episode, the fourth in our series on charity care, focuses on how states are protecting consumers against aggressive hospital debt collections.

This podcast was published on Thursday, October 7, 2021 in Kaiser Health News.

By Dan Weissmann

Can't see the audio player? Click here to listen.

Healthcare — and how much it costs — is scary. But you're not alone with this stuff, and knowledge is power. "An Arm and a Leg" is a podcast about these issues, and its second season is co-produced by KHN.

In Maryland, hospitals had been suing people — taking them to court and garnishing wages — even though these patients legally qualified for financial assistance, also known as charity care. Those lawsuits are now illegal, because of the state's new Medical Debt Protection Act. But in many other states, it still happens. 

This episode, the fourth in our series on charity care, focuses on how that change came about — as well as the coalition of consumer-protection advocates, riled-up activists and healthcare worker unions that made it happen.

We close out the episode by checking in with Jared Walker and his organization, Dollar For. Walker went super-viral on TikTok, telling people how to "crush medical bills" by understanding and applying for the financial assistance most hospitals are required by law to provide. Ten million people saw that video and now Dollar For is working to build an army of volunteers to tackle more than $100 million in medical debt — one bill at a time. 

Want to learn more, directly from Jared Walker?  Sign up for his next training, scheduled for Oct. 14. 

Here's the transcript for this episode

"An Arm and a Leg" is a co-production of KHN and Public Road Productions.

To keep in touch with "An Arm and a Leg," subscribe to the newsletter. You can also follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. And if you've got stories to tell about the healthcare system, the producers would love to hear from you.

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And subscribe to "An Arm and a Leg" on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, StitcherPocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

In Maryland, hospitals had been suing people — taking them to court and garnishing wages — even though these patients legally qualified for financial assistance. 

Those lawsuits are now illegal, because of the state's new Medical Debt Protection Act. But in many other states, it still happens.


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