BATTLING A MEDICAL CRISIS?
If you’re overwhelmed by a serious diagnosis, consider a health advocate
What is it? Think of a health advocate as your “inside man” in today’s complex health care system. “Patients often have to communicate with multiple practitioners, research treatment options, and fight insurance claim denials,” says Laura Weil, director of the master’s degree -program in health advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. An advocate acts as the point person for coordinating your care or helping to monitor that of a far-flung relative.
Who needs one? Patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses tend to benefit most, says Weil. “Advocates can help you get the information you need to understand test results, find specialists, and choose the right treatment.”
How do I find one? Ask whether your company offers free patient advocacy to employees. If it does not, try a hospital or senior center; many provide free advocacy services (the latter even for non-seniors). To hire a pro, check out the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (nahac.com), a small but growing resource. Ask for references and a proposal of services and fees (hourly rates can range from $35 to more than $200).
—Camille Noe Pagán
►MEDICAL BILLS MADE EASY
Inundated with bills and claim forms? The specialists at Off Your Desk (offyourdesk.net) can gather your medical bills and receipts and make sense of them, ensuring payments are accurate and resolving disputes with insurers and providers. The service includes a $295 “catch-up” plan and a $65-a-month plan for ongoing claims assistance. If that seems pricey, take this into account: Off Your Desk says it recovers an average of $2,200 for customers within the first 90 days. —CNP