For episode eight of our podcast, we were joined by Dan Weissmann, host and executive producer of An Arm and a Leg Show. His podcast is one of our absolute favorites, so we were pretty stoked when Dan agreed to join us for an episode. Our hosts for this episode, Steven Cutbirth and Haden Marrs, discuss several topics with Dan, including patient advocacy, healthcare affordability, the complexities of patient consumerism, and why healthcare stories hit us all so personally.
You can listen to the whole episode here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you listen to podcasts. If you’re short on time, we’ve included a few highlights from our conversation below:
Steven: “Could you tell us a bit more about your background and how you went from reporting on ‘Marketplace’ to hosting and producing a show all about healthcare?”
Dan: “I kind of came to the end of the job that I was in and I thought like, wow, what next? Well, there is this one thing that I really have been interested in, which is the cost of healthcare. I’d been interested in it as a reporter for a long time because these are stories that are so compelling, they’re intimate. They’re about turning points in our lives, places where we’re really vulnerable, they’re stories we can all relate to. There are also stories that raise questions about the biggest things in our whole society, how is our whole society organized? How do we get to a point where so many people have the kinds of problems we hear about a lot?”
Haden: “So given all of your experience, all the stories you’ve covered, why do you think it’s so hard for patients to find affordable and quality healthcare in the U.S.?”
Dan: “Wow. What a great question. I mean, I think the answer is we don’t have a system that’s built to make that happen. We have a system that’s built to make other things happen. We have a system that’s built to allow some people to become really, really rich. And for a lot of other people to be pretty comfortable. It’s got things in it that are built to make it possible for some people to get care that’s safe and decent at prices that they couldn’t afford, like Medicare, Medicaid. There are regulations about health and safety, right? There’s all kinds of stuff, but it’s not a system. I’ll say one other thing, which is, even if you are an entity that’s set up with an absolute mission-first mindset you’re playing the game with other players who have other incentives for whom, you know, mission is not necessarily paramount. You’re playing by rules that are set up to constrain those entities from doing things that they really shouldn’t do, but that might or might not be like the absolute rules that need to be applied to you. It’s extremely difficult for anybody or any entity to create paradise on their own.”
Steven: “What have you learned? If you had to say ‘Man, after these two years or so this is my takeaway,’ what would you say?”
Dan: “The biggest one so far is actually we have more rights than we know about. There are things we can do to get those rights. There is a lot of incremental stuff we can do for ourselves. The law is not what it should be. You know, we don’t have protections that we ought to have. Partly because it’s a bit of a game of whack-a-mole; there’s so many things with all the incentives to like find new ways to charge and make money. You make a law against one thing, and then somebody creative and well paid is going to find other ways to try to drill money out of people. The system is not what it should be, but there is also territory that we can work. And that feels very satisfying.”
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