If someone asked me what question I am asked most frequently, I’d tell them the answer is some variation of this family of questions:
- How much do advocates charge for their services?
- What is the hourly rate for patient advocates?
- How much do patient advocates make?
- How much money do patient advocates get paid?
- What is the average amount a patient advocate charges?
We’ll begin by answering these questions with a question (bad form, but it makes our point…)
- How much does it cost to take a vacation?
- What does it cost to go to college?
- How much more can I make if I get a new job?
Think about those questions for a minute: they are actually kind of silly. In fact, there is only ONE answer; the same answer to the questions about advocates, cost, and pricing.
So of course, now you want to know… “Depends on what?” There are two answers:
It Depends: Answer #1:
What advocates charge varies based on services, niche, education and experience, certifications, professionalism, geographic location …
Services: Advocates who sit by a hospital bedside don’t charge the same as advocates who negotiate hospital bills, who don’t charge the same as an advocate who gets an insurance claim approved, who don’t charge the same as the advocate who is on retainer with an elderly person who needs accompaniment to her doctor appointments month after month. Even an average here wouldn’t be helpful.
Niche: Advocates who work with Solos (Elder Orphans) have a specific expertise. As do advocates who reconcile and negotiate medical bills. As do advocates who focus on cancer care, or those whose expertise is mental health or pediatrics, or any other niche – the name for a specialty area. Even averaging within a niche wouldn’t be helpful because all the other factors listed here must also be taken into account.
Education and Experience: A nurse who is providing medical-navigation services can charge more than someone who is not a nurse. A doctor who is focusing on cancer advocacy can charge more than a nurse with the same experience. But a doctor or nurse usually won’t be able to charge more than someone who worked in hospital billing for an insurer for a decade or more if the client needs cost-managing services. And long-time advocates with no clinical experience can charge more than a nurse who is just getting started in advocacy. So – again – no way to average.
Certifications: this is fairly obvious: an advocate certified by a nationally respected certifying board can charge more than one who isn’t certified. This is true for any of the available certifications from the BCPA, to CCM, to CSA, and others.
Professionalism: Advocacy is a profession, not an hourly job. When you pay a lawyer, you pay her at a very high rate because she supplies you with information that stands up to public and legal scrutiny. When you pay a hairdresser, you pay her a high rate because you have to live with your hair and feel good about your appearance. When you pay a tax preparer, you’re hoping to stay out of hot water with the IRS. When people pay an advocate, they know you are managing two of the most important aspects of life: health and money. How much is that worth? And isn’t the profession of advocacy worth at least what the legal profession charges?
Geographic location: If you live and work in or near a larger city (New York, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, others) you can charge more than if you live in a smaller city or a rural area. Just as housing and most goods are generally more expensive, so is a contract with an advocate.
It Depends: Answer #2:
What advocates charge is what patients are willing to pay them. This is probably even more of a factor than all those aspects of your practice listed above. Just like selling a house isn’t about the price of the house; rather, it’s what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Being hired for advocacy services occurs when that sweet spot of the value of what you offer is the same as someone is willing to pay.
You can see now what that original question of “how much do advocates charge?” is impossible to answer without “it depends.”
So what if we alter the questions a little to get to what most advocates REALLY want to know…?
- How much should I charge for my advocacy work?
- What should my hourly rate be?
- How can I figure out my pricing as I launch my advocacy practice?
- Or … Am I charging the right amount? (Or should I be charging more?)
In fact, answering these questions involves math, and it’s math that actually takes into account all those factors listed above because it’s based on your own knowledge of yourself and your circumstances. That math is found in The Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook – which many people have, but not as many have read. (Is this you? If you own it, but haven’t read it, you must be waiting for osmosis?)
Your APHA membership also has information about pricing in the Pricing and Financial Center.
The last important point to make here is this: never EVER quote an hourly rate to a potential client. The references above spell out the reason and make suggestions for what you do instead.
Such an important question shouldn’t be left to a quick answer. Your value, and the value of any other advocate’s work, isn’t the same. Your pricing shouldn’t be the same either.