‘An arm and a leg’: How to negotiate for lower medical bills


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Negotiating medical bills is often possible. It sounds difficult – and it can be – but what if we got it down to a science? Map out all the moves ahead of time? Jared Walker and his team at the nonprofit Dollar For are running a big 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 charity care, the financial support that most US hospitals are legally required to offer.

Next, a team of whip-smart volunteers helped Dollar Forge create a user-friendly system to help people apply for that aid. Dollars for Zoom started teaching lessons, teaching people the ins and outs of applying for charity care — and helping others do the same. The group says its work has helped erase more than $18 million in medical debt.

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

In this episode, we hear a real-life discussion of Dollar For with a debt collector.


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

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