‘Then the Bill Came’: Year 4 of KHN-NPR’s Bill of the Month Is a Wrap

In 2021, more than 880 of you submitted ideas for KHN-NPR’s Bill of the Month investigative series, trusting us with two of the most personal topics in life: your health and your money. We are deeply grateful. Our trove of bills and stories — building steadily to nearly 5,000 since February 2018 — tells us that American health care’s financial toll is a burden for far too many people, and that our health system is often better at promoting its own financial interests than protecting the public.

The stories we told in 2021 illuminate some practices that have been happening for decades and others that are new. We met Kyunghee Lee, who wanted to know why the bill for her arthritis injection was suddenly 10 times more when her doctor’s office moved one floor up. And we met the Salerno family, who helped us discover how “obstetric emergency departments” mean supersized bills for even the healthiest, most routine births. In case you missed any, take time to read about and listen to each of our Bill of the Month episodes from this year — and help protect yourself from sticker shock.

We head into 2022 with a new federal law against surprise medical bills, which takes effect Jan. 1. Though it is far from a perfect law, it is an answer to a conversation our Bill of the Month patient, Drew Calver, helped start in 2018 when he wrote in about the $109,000 bill he owed after his heart attack, despite insurance. We embark on the fifth year of our crowdsourced investigation with more federal legislation introduced as a result of a Bill of the Month feature — it would be great if that fix for the arbitrary “birthday rule” that can ensnare new parents in red tape took less than four years to remedy.

Click on the people below to hear their stories.

Bill of the Month is a crowdsourced investigation by KHN and NPR that dissects and explains medical bills. Do you have an interesting medical bill you want to share with us? Tell us about it!