Understanding the healthcare system can be difficult for anybody. Luckily, there are professionals who can help you navigate any healthcare situation. These professionals are patient advocates, sometimes called healthcare advocates, navigators, or care managers. Whatever you call them, independent advocates can help you navigate this complex and confusing system. But how much does it cost to hire a patient advocate? That’s a critical question for most people considering this service.
What are patient advocates?
There are two main types of patient advocates:
- Advocates who work for (and get paid by) an organization, including a hospital, clinic, or health insurer
- Independent advocates who work directly for you
One major difference between these two kinds of advocates is the cost of their services and who pays those costs.
Independent advocates work for you. You hire them like you would hire an attorney. That means their loyalty, or allegiance, is to you. It also means you pay their fees out of your own pocket.
That may sound like a negative, but there’s an upside of paying the bill. It means the advocate answers to you, not to the hospital, clinic, or health insurer. It means they put your interests first. When you or a loved one is the patient in a complex healthcare situation, you want someone you know is on your side with no conflicts of interest.
Independent advocates are not usually covered by insurance. So you need to be prepared to pay for these services on your own.
The cost to hire a patient advocate
Advocate rates vary widely. The cost depends on a number of factors, including:
- The services you need
- How long it will take (days? weeks? months?)
- The background and experience of your advocate
- Your location (you’ll pay more in a large city than you will in rural or middle-America.
Hourly rates can be as low as less than $100 per hour and as high as $300 or $400 per hour or more.
But an hourly rate doesn’t really tell you how much it costs to hire an advocate. How many hours does the advocate need to resolve your situation? Will it be one or two hours? Or a several hours each month for a year? That also depends.
There are multiple ways advocates could charge you, including initial assessment fees, hourly rates, deposit to an hours bank, retainers, and project fees.
Advocates will often estimate the number of hours they expect your situation to require. They might start with an assessment, which you probably have to pay for because it takes the advocate time to understand your situation and make a plan for how they would help you.
Many advocates will ask you to pay at least some of that up front in a payment called a “retainer.” That payment will get them started. Once they use up the hours you paid for up front, they’ll let you know. Then, they’ll either ask for another prepayment or bill you monthly.
Some advocates will set a fixed fee for a specific type of service. Maybe you want them to resolve a specific medical bill or monitor a situation. Your advocate might charge you a set amount total or each month to perform those services on your behalf.
Advocates will typically ask you to sign an agreement with them. The agreement will (or should) set out specific payment terms so you know what you’re being asked to sign up for.
The cost of not hiring a patient advocate
As you consider the potential cost of hiring your own independent advocate, consider these other critical questions as well:
- What is your quality of life worth to you? What is life itself worth to you?
- What is the alternative? What happens if you don’t hire the help you need? Will you survive? Will the hassle you face eat up even more of your resources in the form of wasted time and energy? How much of your hard-earned savings will it cost you to manage on your own?
So the real question about cost is this: What is peace of mind worth to you? Can you put a price on it?
The Bottom Line
- Independent, private health or patient advocates charges for their services.
- The charges will vary depending on your situation and their practice.
- It might cost you $200 or $500. It might cost you thousands to hire an advocate.
- Important! Your advocate will give you a good idea of the total before you get started with your work. So what harm can it do to ask?
- You may not be able to afford NOT to work with an advocate.
So – find your advocate – and get started!
The longer you wait, the more it may cost.
The sooner you start, the better your chances for success.
Learn more about AdvoConnection and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates