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‘An Arm and a Leg’: How to Negotiate for Lower Medical Bills

‘An Arm and a Leg’: How to Negotiate for Lower Medical Bills

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Negotiating medical bills is often possible. It sounds hard — and it can be — but what if we got it down to a science? Mapped out all the moves ahead of time? Jared Walker and his team at the nonprofit Dollar For are running a big experiment to see whether they can do just that.  

The folks at Dollar For went superviral on TikTok in early 2021 with a 60-second recipe for crushing medical debt by accessing charity care, financial assistance that most U.S. hospitals are legally required to offer.

Next, a group of whip-smart volunteers helped Dollar For develop a user-friendly system to help people apply for that assistance. Dollar For also started holding lessons on Zoom, teaching people the ins and outs of applying for charity care — and helping others to do so. The group says its work has helped erase more than $18 million in medical debt. 

But lots of people who can’t afford their medical bills don’t qualify for charity care. So Dollar For is trying something new: what they’re calling a “negotiation lab” for gaming out the best way to negotiate with hospitals and debt collectors. 

In this episode, we listen in on one of Dollar For’s real-life negotiations with a debt collector. 

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

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