Careers in health care advocacy grows; good work for boomers

The complexities of fighting for patient rights and navigating through the patient/insurance/health care provider/government maze provide an especially ripe and growing career sector for boomers.

The spring 2014 Trends Journal forecast that patient advocacy would become a growing career niche, fueled by the complexities of implementing the Affordable Care Act. Tracking this trend shows that patient advocacy has grown substantially and is branching out to include a range of different job opportunities – and on all sides of the health-care equation. That means opportunity working on behalf of the patient, insurance company, health care provider, investment group backing health care providers or the hospital.

Further, as Obamacare matures, and new Republican majorities in Congress likely recharge significant challenges to the law, patients’ needs and health care providers’ bottom lines will need greater protection. That will further feed the creation of advocacy positions.

For example, The Washington Post recently reported on an emerging health care job trend: The patient satisfaction officer. The article quoted Leah Binder, president and chief executive of the Leapfrog Group, an “employer-based coalition that advocates for greater health-care quality and safety.” Binder said hospital programs traditionally have been set up to serve employees, not patients. “There is a new recognition that the patient is important,” she said. “The patient used to be maybe 10th on the list of a hospital’s priorities.”

Laid-off older workers or early retirees who have health care, accounting, paralegal, office management or related experience and skills will find ample opportunity in this expanding employment arena.

Health care advocates are needed in growing numbers to deal with billing mistakes on medical bills, negotiating health care costs between providers and patients, creating long-term health care plans and understanding the bureaucracy in dealing with changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

Advocates, for example, assist patients in selecting health care professionals to match their needs and determine treatment plans. They serve as go-betweens to interpret and execute complex paperwork. They even help patients with managing prescriptions and medication regimens. On the flip side, advocates working for hospitals or insurance companies provide similar functions — but with the institutions’ bottom-line interests as the driving factors.

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