When President Barack Obama ran for office in 2008, healthcare reform was already an enormous and contentious topic.
In those days, I was invited to speak to dozens of groups of patients and caregivers to help audiences sort out the issues that comprised healthcare reform so they could, on their own, decide which aspects (if any) were important to them. From the concept of “universal” healthcare through a public option, to coverage for pre-existing conditions, to portability, tort reform, free vaccinations to develop “herd immunity,” and many more, we looked at the whole of the topic as objectively as possible.
Before I started each talk, I would challenge audiences to figure out which side I was on by the time we were finished – reform? or no reform? It gave me great satisfaction that a show of hands at the end usually resulted in about a 50-50 split, demonstrating as much neutrality as I had been able to muster. It was somewhat surprising, because I was very much in favor of reform and truly not objective about the subject at all.
What I never mentioned to any of my audiences was this: that the bottom line for patient advocates was that healthcare reform was, simply, job security.
The reason: no matter what became of healthcare reform (and, of course, history tells us it became Obamacare, AKA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the ACA) – no matter what decisions became the law of the land, Americans were going to be confused by it all. They would be confused about costs, access, costs, access, access, and of course, costs, all of which could have huge detrimental effects on their health and care.
The more confused they became, the more they would need a health or patient advocate to help out.
Thus, job security.
That brings us to the 2016 presidential race, and victory for the candidate who said he will work to repeal the ACA.
No matter what your feelings about the outcome of last week’s presidential election, there are a few things advocates can take to the bank:
- The healthcare system will go into further upheaval as the ACA is dismantled.
- Patients and caregivers will find themselves more confused and frustrated than they have ever been.
- The moneymakers in the system will seek new ways to maintain and grow their own profits, shifting and being shifty, making it even more difficult for patients to get the care they need at a cost they can afford.
- The demand for private, independent advocates will grow – even more – and there won’t be enough advocates to help the patients and caregivers who need them.
- Yes – all this adds up to even more job security.
We can’t anticipate exactly what changes will be made, but that doesn’t really matter. People are scared and confused now – today – because they just don’t know what to expect. They didn’t know before the election and they feel even less in control now. Even through the ACA, pricing has gone up in most states, and people feel like they are getting less and less for their money. Their confusion and frustration (and anger) is going from bad to worse.
They need help. They want help.
If you are absolutely serious about growing a successful advocacy practice, then NOW is the time to prepare. There will be no better time in history to establish your practice (if you haven’t already) and to expand it (if you’re already in business.)
If you are just getting started:
- Be sure you know how to run a business so that you don’t get hung up on administrative tasks instead of helping patients.
- Be sure you understand the basics of the healthcare system so you can anticipate what clients will need from you.
- Be sure you understand how to market your services in terms these scared, confused, frustrated target audiences understand.
- Be sure you have ready access to the tools you need to serve your business and client needs.
- Make strong connections with other advocates so you can refer to each other when needed.
If you’ve been in business for awhile:
- Review your contracts and insurance to be sure they are up-to-date and are serving you as well as possible.
- Connect with clients, including former clients, to remind them on a regular basis that you are the person they can turn to when they are confused.
- Reach out to your local press to volunteer to be a good contact when they are looking for someone to quote as changes are made.
- Strengthen your connections with other advocates so you’re prepared to help out even with the services you can’t provide yourself.
For all professional advocates:
- Stay updated on the certification effort through the Patient Advocate Certification Board’s website.
- Keep current on the changes in the laws as they are made. For example, I’ve read that the pre-existing conditions coverage that is part of Obamacare, and was in jeopardy with the new regime, may not change after all. But what does that mean? Will prices go up for some citizens but not others? And just because coverage may be available, will there be any doctors available to help the people who have that coverage? Through The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates we will be helping you stay current with the changes in the law to be sure you have a ready resource to use to help your clients.
What are you waiting for?