Examining Private Health Care Advocacy Field

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Private Health Care Advocacy

The San Francisco Chronicleon Thursday examined the "new and growing field" of private health careadvocacy, which helps patients and their families "cut through thehealth care bureaucracy to find the help they need."

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Most healthcare advocates who offer direct patient services work alone or in smallbusinesses, although some large companies have entered the field. Inaddition, some health care advocates work for health insurers orhospitals or contract with employers as an employee benefit.

According to the Chronicle,many health care advocates have some background in the field, but,because the "business of health advocacy is unregulated," someadvocates "might have no training other than helping a family memberthrough a difficult illness." Sarah Lawrence Collegein New York in 1980 began to offer a master's degree program in healthcare advocacy, and no other universities offer similar programs. Someuniversities offer credentialing programs in health care advocacy,although requirements vary. In addition, no states issue officiallicenses for health care advocates.

Joanna Smith, founder of the patient advocacy group Healthcare Liaisonand a former hospital discharge planner, said, "People are clearlyoverwhelmed by health care and are seeking people to help them out withit." Smith, who seeks to establish professional standards and anaccreditation program for health care advocates, said, "From aconsumer-protection standpoint, there just are not standards. So anyoneliterally can hang up a shingle and say 'I'm a health care advocate'"(Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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