‘An Arm and a Leg’: They Turned Grief Into Action

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In 2004, 24-year-old Manny Lanza urgently needed surgery for a life-threatening brain condition. But he didn’t have insurance, so his hospital refused to schedule the treatment — until it was too late. Manny died waiting. 

In the months that followed, Manny’s parents, Reynaldo Prieto and Levia Lanza, fought to make their son’s story known — and to make sure it didn’t happen again. They came up empty … until a reporter from the New York Post took their call. Then, things changed fast.

What Manny’s parents didn’t know: The fight had already begun years before Manny’s illness. Folks like Elizabeth Benjamin, then a Legal Aid attorney, and Dr. Rosemarie Guercia, a retired Long Island, New York, physician, had spent those years campaigning for laws that would require hospitals to extend financial aid to uninsured patients. And with Manny’s story in the news, it was finally their time.

This episode of “An Arm and a Leg” focuses on how New York enacted a charity care law, one of the precursors to the federal provision on charity care in the Affordable Care Act.  

“An Arm and a Leg” is a co-production of KHN and Public Road Productions.

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