Podcast

‘An Arm And A Leg’: A La ‘Hamilton,’ Revue Takes On History Of Health Insurance


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Bills, Bills, Bills” — the 1999 hit from mega-group Destiny’s Child — has gotten a remix of sorts from the New York City musical troupe Heck No Techno. The troupe’s show “Explanation of Benefits” charts the history of the U.S. health care system, borrowing Beyoncé swagger and adding new lyrics:

Can you pay my bills?
Can you pay my medical bills?
Can you pay my deducti-bills?
So maybe I can get my pills?

The musical revue, staged earlier this year, starts with hospital prepayment plans from the 1920s, traces the origins of insurance giant Blue Cross and dances through decades of health policy twists, including a light skewering of the Affordable Care Act.

The show’s creators used their experiences with the health care marketplace as inspiration.

“I just felt so angry about this topic,” said lead songwriter Emily Lowinger. “I just remember being like, ‘We have to do this because, otherwise, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

The show wraps with sketches demonstrating ways patients can work to protect themselves from excessive charges, including tips for confronting physicians.

Stephanie Regina, one of the group’s founders, spent years working in a small medical office.

“One of the doctors I used to work for came to see the show, and he loved it — and he said, ‘Ooh, that was rough,” Regina said. “Because he knows, too, sometimes people have to look at him in a certain light in order to protect themselves.”

The storytellers from Heck No Techno have taken some enraging and depressing personal moments and turned them into art and laughter. This season, the podcast is all about financial self-defense, and art and laughter are nice tools to have in your arsenal.


Season 3 is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

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