You can’t really pick up a newspaper or magazine without finding an article about health care. We read, listen and watch as the tale unfolds, but rarely do we truly understand the plot, or any of the twists and turns, until we are the protagonist.

For the last few weeks, I have been the protagonist in a story of much pain, many visits to health care providers, tests, and “diagnosis.” This would all have been scary enough, had I not recently read Steven Brill’s epic article in TIME , Bitter Pill – Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.

Brill outlines how patients are charged, what insurance and private payers pay, who they pay, and most alarming—how much things actually cost. The disparity between actual costs (when he could find them) and proposed payment was often enormous. One of the biggest takeaways to any readers seemed to be, “bills are negotiable.” That, and…some people in health care are getting very wealthy…and it is not the caregivers.

This new light made me watch every choice being made, test ordered, drug given, syringe used. Brill is correct when he states that those in need of care are a captive, and often unknowing, audience. Of course, Jon Stewart was able to exploit the absurdity of it all in the way only he can on the. Part one & Part two.

The article is the longest in TIME’s history, and well worth the read, note taking and page marking. There may be little each of us can do independently to change health care costs for the better, but being knowledgeable about how the system works is a great place to start. The article provides several sources for unraveling bills, and this whole idea about negotiating the cost of your care.

I am a haggler at heart, but must admit to finding it difficult to think I had any way to request a cheaper set of x-rays, or a discounted MRI. I may be better prepared to ask the right questions once the bills start rolling in, but the vulnerability of being sick, or in pain, certainly trumps one’s negotiating powers – at least in the short term.

Read the article and share your thoughts – we’d love to hear from you! Once we do start getting the results from more than a week of visits and tests, we will share our journey on this blog. This will be one story, much like the ones Brill covers, that helps to illustrate the process, and test our own foray with the “Chargemaster.”