Emergencies come in a variety of ways. Fires, earthquakes, hurricanes are natural disasters that cause upheaval in our lives.  Other events such as losing your job, or being diagnosed with a medical condition can derail your life. Taking time to prepare for a life-changing event is important. Think of this blog post as your wake-up call to do some preparation BEFORE your house is on fire!

Estimating your Expenses

Do you know what your monthly expense are? Most of us would be surprised at what we spend each month. Planning for a natural disaster, or another event which disrupts your life is an important exercise. Most financial planners tell us to have 3-6 months of saving, to be prepared for a job loss or other life-changing event. But how do you figure this out? I would recommend that you get a notebook and write down all of your expenses. Do this for a few months so you can get an idea of what your expense are. Once you have a number, you can develop a plan to save money so in case of a life-changing event you can continue to pay your bills.

Income Replacement

If you cannot work, how will you and your family survive? Having a Disability Policy will allow you to have money coming in to pay your bills. Each policy is different and starts and stops according to different rules.  Many employers provide disability policies as an employee benefit. If your employer offers a disability policy, I would strongly advise you consider taking advantage of this benefit. If not, you can look for an individual policy that you can pay for privately. There are two types of disability policies, short-term, and long-term policies. Most people get both as you are never sure when or how long your life will detour will be.

Medical Costs

Another area of planning you should take into account is how you will handle a medical emergency. First, let’s look at the financial side. As we did above, grab your notebook and make a list of the following:

  1. What is the cost of your premium for your health insurance policy? Most people get their health insurance from their employer. Look on your paycheck to see how much is deducted from your check. Write that amount down, as you will need to continue paying that amount if you have an emergency. If you have an individual policy, write the cost of your premium down on your list.
  2. If you can’t work, your employer will offer you COBRA so your health insurance will continue. COBRA allows you to keep your employer-sponsored health insurance, but you have to pay the premium. Ask your employer, to tell you what COBRA will cost you if you have to stop working? The cost of COBRA is paid for by the employee in total. COBRA cost range according to the policy, so getting an idea on the cost will help you plan. Here is a link to a site that can help you calculate what COBRA will cost you. Add this figure to your list.
  3. What are the deductibles for your policy? Many people have gotten high deductible policies to keep the cost of the premium down. As a result, deductibles can range $5,000-$10,000 dollars or higher per year. What this means is if you have a deductible of $5,000.00 you have to pay $5000.00 BEFORE your policy begins to pay out for your medical expenses. Do your savings include the cost of your insurance deductible? Make sure you include this on your list.
  4. What are your out of pocket costs? Most policies have out of pocket costs for various services. These can be for; doctor’s visits, rehabilitation sessions, lab work, x-rays or payments for prescription drugs. This information is outlined in your member handbook. Having a medical savings account can help you save pre-tax dollars so that you have a ‘fund’ to pay out of pocket costs for your medical expenses. Gathering this information takes some work, but doing the work is important so you can determine how much you will need to put into your medical savings account. Being accurate is important as some medical savings account policies do not allow you to roll the unused money over to the next year if the funds are not used in the current year, so being accurate is important.
  5. Advanced Directives is the last suggestion I ask you to consider. Having Advanced Directives allows you to have a way for your wishes to be known by family and friends if you cannot tell people at the time. Writing your wishes down and sharing your preferences with your family and friends is essential. Five Wishes is a straightforward document that can guide you in the process. Here are two additional resources on Advanced Directives. Caring Info, also called Caring Connections.  – This site is managed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and allows people to download their own state’s advance directive. The next one is MyDirectives – a free electronic form to help you share your wishes. It is currently being used in all states but does not carry the legislative approval that Five Wishes does in 42 States and the District of Columbia.  It provides the opportunity for leaving a video message for family and medical personnel. Do some research and talk to an attorney so that you can be sure your wishes are carried out as you planned them to be. Have the discussion with your family. It is not an easy conversation, but one we all need to have.

Who can you turn to for help?

We all hire people to help us. If you had to go into a court of law, you would hire an attorney. You have a financial planner to help you invest your money so you can save for your retirement. Today, with the costs of health care being shifted to the consumer, people are looking for ways to understand how the health care system works and how they can learn how to make informed decisions on their health and health care. Having a patient/health advocate can help you plan in case of a life-changing event and if needed assist you in navigating the complex healthcare system safely, effectively and efficiently. Many people use family members or a trusted friend as their advocate but some hire a patient/health advocate to be there to help them with billing issues, social issues or navigating the complex healthcare system.

Finding a Patient/Health Advocate

But how does a person find an advocate? How do you know who is qualified to help you and specializes in the area that you need help? Today, professional Patient/Health advocates are taking action and finding innovative ways to tell people who they are, what they do and the value they bring. Here are a few examples:

Professional advocates are turning to the media to spread the word on what they do. Recently two advocates worked with Vice News to prepare a video that explained the work they do. Take seven minutes to watch this video. If you are looking for an advocate, pay attention to news clips, magazines and newspapers articles on Patient/Health Advocates.

National and State professional organizations involved in patient advocacy are using technology to allow members to enter information about the work they do so they can be found when people are searching online for a patient/health advocate in their community. Here are a few Professional Patient/Health Advocate organizations to visit:  The Alliance for Professional Health Advocates, the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy, the Washington State Health Advocacy Association and Greater National Advocates are examples of how professional associations helping to inform the public about how to find an advocate in their community. Also, they provide a way for advocates to network and educate the public about the role, function, and value of patient/health advocates.

Professional Advocates are achieving national certification. The Patient Advocate Certification Board launched the first national certification in patient advocacy in March 2018. The first exam certified one hundred and forty-nine professionals as Board Certified Patient Advocates. Achieving the Board Certification is one-way professional advocates demonstrate their experience and expertise in the profession of patient/health advocacy. The second testing period took place from September 15-29. Those who tested during this period are waiting for their results. Once results are delivered to the candidates, those who achieved the Board Certification will be added to the PACB website! Click here to view the growing list of Board Certified Patient Advocates. Going forward the exam will be given twice a year, March and October. To learn more, visit the Patient Advocate Certification Board website.

Advocacy organizations are doing important work in educating the public about their role in the health care system when they become a patient or a caregiver. Here are two examples. Campaign Zero is partnering with professional advocates to be part of their community education program. This work allows advocates to educate in their communities and empower people to be active participants in their health and healthcare. Think about having Campaign Zero come to your community.

Pulse Center for Patient Safety, Education and Awareness is an organization helping people to become active participants in their health and healthcare. Today, we are told to bring to bring someone with us when we are admitted to the hospital or have a doctor’s appointment. But what are these people supposed to do?  The Family-Centered Patient Advocacy Training helps prepare participants to be a patient safety advocate for one person or the whole family. PULSE works with the community and healthcare professionals to understand what to do so they know their role. Pulse provides tools that consumers can use to advocate for themselves.

Taking the time to prepare for a life-changing event is essential. I hope these tips help you begin to develop your plans before you have a life-changing event that can blindside you. I wrote about my story in a Blog post titled When Life Changes on A Dime. I would love for you to leave me a comment to let me know how you and your family are preparing so you are ready when/if your life changes.

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