An Arm and a Leg: Bonding Through Frustration

Paying for healthcare in the United States is terrifying, and Dan Weissmann wants to help, at least a little bit, with a podcast about how scary/sucky it can be.  An Arm and a Leg could’ve easily been a bog-standard bit of journalism with Weissmann interviewing a bunch of talking heads, arranging things so fun facts pop up at appropriate intervals to keep listeners hooked. Job done. 

aAaaL (an abbreviation that also doubles as an onomatopoeia for the sound I make whenever I have to shop for healthcare plans) is as much about Weissmann experiencing this big, pointlessly obtuse industry from a user’s perspective as he tries to find good insurance that fits his own family’s needs.

You are not alone. We may be screwed, but we’re together. And if we want to get even a little bit less-screwed, we need each other. If nothing else, we can be good company to each other.

Dan Weissmann, An Arm and a Legpromotional material

Each week Weissmann digs more into what healthcare is like these days, interviews experts (spoiler alert: you’re not alone in being super stressed about picking a bad plan), and interviews some astonishing people about what they’ve done to attain/keep good insurance. 

Beautiful nerds who’ve devoured the 99% Invisible backlog multiple times in the past might remember Weissmann’s contributions to the show in the past, as well as his work for WBEZ. Well, now he’s self-employed and his really good health insurance from his last job is rapidly approaching the date when they will have to part ways. 

It’s kind of like you live someplace, like a country where they have a really good national health plan. Someplace where you don’t have to worry about the cost of going to the doctor. Someplace like Sweden. Those are the kind of benefits my old job offered and that’s why we are paying them really high premiums this year, to stay on that insurance.

Dan Weissman, aAaaL episode 1.

It’s not often I get to start a write-up with the phrase “a podcast made me go to the doctor” but, here we are: An Arm and a Leg made me get off my ass and go to the doctor, because healthcare sucks in this country and one can’t take anything for granted. And, in true fashion, even though I already have  healthcare I ended up picking a primary care physician who, after five phone calls to various hospitals, I discovered doesn’t exist.

I got assigned a corporeal doctor, got a flu shot I’ve been not-getting out of pure laziness, they hit my knees with the rubber hammer thing, took some blood, then I got a scary letter from my insurance saying they’re discontinuing my coverage because I didn’t submit proof of income on time. 

Except, I did. A week and a half early. Even the person I talked to on the phone was flabbergasted about why this mailer was even sent out. Bureaucracy is fun!

That said, I don’t want to give An Arm and a Leg a bad rap by selling it on the idea “it’ll scare you to be healthier.” I would even argue aAaaL skews more towards Justin McElroy’s The Empty Bowl as far as tone. The dark comedy of hearing just how fucked we all are brings on a relaxing cocktail of “oh so it’s not just me” feelings.

Weissmann isn’t producing this series to scare the shit out of people and get them riled up about healthcare. We’re all already riled up, aAaaL is a place where one can listen and get confirmation we’re all in this together. We’re all freaked out, some people have had to go through massive sacrifices, and the industry is absolutely bonkers. All of which is presented to the listener through Weissmann’s signature voice and seemingly limitless positive energy. 

Oh, and Episode 3 is a joint project with 99% Invisible about the subject of “orphan drugs” which is, not a word of hyperbole, best-of-2018 material in my book. 

Season one of the show runs through December 18th and given a certain tweet I’ve just stumbled across there’s already a good head of steam built up for a second season. I’ve just taken a peek at the descriptions of episodes coming up soon and all I can say is I’m quite excited

You can find more about An Arm and a Leg at

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