‘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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Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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