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'An Arm and a Leg': Tips for Fighting Medical Bills from ProPublica's Marshall Allen

Analysis  |  By Kaiser Health News  
   July 06, 2021

Journalist Marcus Allen provides tips from his book "Never Pay the First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Healthcare System and Win."

This podcast was launched on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 by Kaiser Health News.

By Dan Weissmann

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.

Veteran health journalist Marshall Allen has been exposing healthcare grifters for years. Now, he's written a book about how to fight them. Host Dan Weissmann spoke with Allen about some of the best tips from "Never Pay the First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Healthcare System and Win." 

Allen used the skills he learned while doing healthcare deep dives for ProPublica to write the book, which he describes as a field guide to navigating the health system. 

"This is not stuff you're going to hear at your company's employee enrollment meeting," Allen said. 

Among the tips were some "magic words" you can use if you ever end up in the emergency room. They are worth memorizing or writing down. 

In the ER, you'll be asked to sign a form that says you will pay for whatever your insurance does not cover. If you can, X out that section and write in this:

I consent to appropriate treatment and (including applicable insurance payments) to be responsible for reasonable charges up to two times the Medicare rate.

Here's a transcript of this episode.

"An Arm and a Leg" is a co-production of Kaiser Health News 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.

To hear all Kaiser Health News podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to "An Arm and a Leg" on iTunesPocket CastsGoogle Play or Spotify.

“This is not stuff you're going to hear at your company's employee enrollment meeting.”

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


KEY TAKEAWAYS

ProPublica journalist Marcus Allen describes his book as a field guide to navigating the health system. 

Among the tips were some "magic words" you can use if you ever end up in the emergency room. They are worth memorizing or writing down. 

In the ER, you'll be asked to sign a form that says you will pay for whatever your insurance does not cover. If you can, X out that section and write in this: "I consent to appropriate treatment and (including applicable insurance payments) to be responsible for reasonable charges up to two times the Medicare rate."


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