A medical issue can spring up with sudden ferocity, and even savvy patients can find themselves overwhelmed when trying to navigate care and insurance.

When a medical issue strikes you or your family, the world starts spinning a bit faster and begins to bear down hard. Even the best of us can’t always keep our heads above the rising tide of bureaucracy, legal snares, and other issues that can arise in the event of a medical-billings problem or an insurance coverage denial. A private health care advocate might be an option worth exploring, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.  

An advocate cannot offer medical advice or address legal issues (like malpractice lawsuits) but they can help resolve medical billing problems, fight insurance-coverage denials, aid in complex medical decision-making and find the right specialist or hospital for a particular condition. Some even accompany patients to doctors’ offices and other care settings. Many are or were nurses or social workers – and can help push through a problem when you really need assistance or guidance. Most hospitals employ similar representatives that can help during your stay, but private advocates are often small businesses that can be called upon in far more circumstances.

Advocates typically charge $50 to $200 an hour, says Joanna Smith, president of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC), a professional group in Berkeley, CA. If you are looking to hire a health-care advocate, you should expect a written estimate of costs and services, and feel comfortable with the advocate’s style, experience and expertise before signing on. The NAHAC has designed a code of ethics, which you can find on their website. Be sure to ask about those when interviewing an advocate.

 

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