“One arm and one leg”: how to negotiate to reduce medical bills


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Negotiation of medical bills is often possible. It sounds hard – and it can be – but what if we made it a science? Planned all movements in advance? Jared Walker and his team at the association dollars for are conducting a great experiment to see if 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 charitable care, financial assistance that most US hospitals are legally required to offer.

Then a bunch of whip-smart volunteers helped Dollar For develop a user-friendly system to help people apply for this help. Dollar For has also started giving classes on Zoom, teaching people the ins and outs of applying for charitable care – and helping others do so. The group says its work has helped erase more than $18 million in medical debt.

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

In this episode, we listen to one of Dollar For’s actual negotiations with a debt collector.


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

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