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

By | July 6, 2021

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Veteran health journalist Marshall Allen has been exposing health care 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 Health Care System and Win.” 

Allen used the skills he learned while doing health care 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.

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