Who Deserves a Patient Advocate’s Help?

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Who Deserves a Patient Advocate’s Help?

I’ve wrestled with this question more than once.  It’s the question raised on occasion by those who talk about universal healthcare, and a for-profit healthcare system.  It’s a question asked by those who are concerned that not everyone in the United States has access to healthcare.  It’s asked by almost anyone who asks me what I do for a living. The question is, “Doesn’t providing private patient advocacy services only to those who can afford them, just create one more division between the “haves” and the “have nots?” Lots of soul searching, and more than a few conversations have produced the definitive answer to that question.  The answer is: Yes and No. Private patient advocates work directly for patients, hired by those patients or their caregivers to focus specifically on that one patient.  Unlike a hospital advocate who must work with everyone in the hospital who needs his or her services, unlike a volunteer advocate who might collaborate with a disease-awareness organization (think the American Cancer Society or others) – a private patient advocate provides services to the patient or caregiver who can afford to pay for those services. In that regard – yes – they provide their services only to the “haves.” The gray area here is that the “haves” aren’t just those people with enormous wealth and means.  Among the advocates I’ve talked to on this subject, there is agreement that sometimes they are hired by people who don’t seem to have much money at all, but realize that with their lives in jeopardy, they can’t afford NOT to hire an advocate.  Put another way, what good does it do to keep your money in the bank when it’s pretty well accepted that you can’t take it with you? This gets me thinking about other aspects of our lives where the “haves” might be defined a little differently, too.  Private schools – millions of kids go to private schools, particularly religion-based parochial schools – not because their parents have a lot of money, but because their children’s educations are that important that it’s worth the extra expense to…

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