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Chicago-based ‘An Arm And A Leg’ Podcast Helps Listeners Navigate The Costly, Confusing World Of Health Care In America

Former WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann has set out to explore how everyday people get creative to afford the care they need.

Dan Weissmann, host and executive producer of the podcast An Arm and A Leg.
Courtesy Keeley Parenteau
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CHICAGO — For years, Dan Weissmann reported on Chicago curiosities, including the disappearance of the city’s old-school donut shops and what happens to our tax dollars during a state budget impasse. Now, Weissmann has moved on to a bigger, more national topic: the rising cost of health care.

Weissmann, a former reporter for WBEZ and other local news outlets, has created the podcast “An Arm and a Leg.” Its third season debuted on Nov. 14, with new episodes each week about health care nightmares and how regular people try to navigate the health care industry.

“This isn’t just the story of people who fall completely in the [health care expense] trap,” Weissmann said. “It’s shaping our lives just to avoid becoming one of those who falls into the trap.”

Prior to launching “An Arm and a Leg,” Wiessmann worked as a reporter for WBEZ and Vocalo, a sister station to WBEZ. Much of his work has sought to explain phenomenons in our economy and society, including how corn production impacts word hunger and how billiards helped create the modern world.

Eventually, Weissmann decided to leave WBEZ and pursue other ventures. The prospect of leaving a job with benefits like health care was daunting to him and his family. That led Weissmann to think of a topic he knew was impacting more than just his family: how health care costs shape our lives.

“The people I was talking with all had stories of their own,” Weissmann said. “I could do a daily show about these health care nightmares.”

Those “health care nightmares” have become a mainstay of local news, reporting on fundraisers people must organize to afford live-saving surgeries. Despite there being no “shortage” of such stories, “An Arm and a Leg” chooses to focus on successful stories of navigating the health care industry, Weissmann said. One example is a story of how renaissance fair workers have pooled together to fund medical costs.

“We have a strict no bummer policy,” he said.

After season two discussed the prices of common health procedures, season three will have a theme of “self defense,” stories of people who have tips and tricks for funding health care. One episode features the story of the “health care ninja,” an Evanston woman who uses her experiences to help others in lowering hospital bills and finding affordable health care.

A new feature in the new season is called “Can They F—— Do That?” where Weissmann takes listener question on health care provider practices.

The topic of health care is again at the national forefront ahead of the 2020 presidential election. While there is talk of major changes to the health care in the country, Americans are stuck with the existing system for the foreseeable future, Weissmann said.

That means more stories about how everyday people and getting creative to help themselves and others get the health care they need.

“The best case scenario is at least a couple years away,” Weissmann said of sweeping changes to the health care system. “That’s a lot of GoFundMe campaigns from now.”

“An Arm and a leg” season three will run through Jan. 9, with a new episode every Thursday. To listen to the podcast and all past episodes, click here.

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