Life Care Planners (Originally Published on NerdWallet.com)
The Critical Role Life Care Planners Can Play in Your Finances
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The inability to pay medical bills is the most common reason for bankruptcy among Americans. According to a 2009 Harvard study, 62% of personal bankruptcies stem from illness or medical debt. Alarmingly, most of these people do carry medical insurance.
Consider the case of a client I worked with this spring. She asked me to help her challenge an inflated and error-ridden hospital bill of almost $50,000, the amount left over after her insurer paid its contracted amount. After a couple of months of negotiating directly with the hospital, my client owed a revised balance of $0. Her experience illustrates just how critical it is to one’s financial security to have an advocate working on your behalf.
Independent health care advocates who work as life care planners (myself included) not only battle erroneous bills, but also can provide guidance on health coverage. The long-term consequences of your coverage selection can have a major impact on your finances. Monthly premiums are important but not the only factor to consider — annual deductibles can run several thousand dollars. Combine that with co-insurance, co-payments and the battle to prove that care is “medically necessary,” and it’s no surprise medical expenses can bankrupt so many Americans.
How life care planners help
These professionals are savvy in estate planning, capital growth and preservation; they’re also capable of reviewing income tax returns and are able to scrutinize insurance coverage of all types. They can help you in a time of vulnerability and stress by ensuring that you and your loved ones are not overcharged for medical care.
Life care planners can review your estate plan, financial records, income tax returns and insurance policies. Once that’s completed, they can provide you with a written analysis of your life care plan. You can then take this critique to your other trusted advisors — your estate planning attorney, accountant, financial advisor and insurance agent — and ask each to confirm that the part of your life care plan that they help you with is on track.
Over the years, traditional advisors who are entrusted with guiding people along the path to a secure financial future have dismissed as irrelevant the work done by life care planners and health care advocates. But as health care costs continue to rise, threatening the financial security of so many Americans, that’s bound to change.
Life care planners decipher your medical coverage plans, fight for fair prices and help protect any assets you’ve set aside for you and your loved ones. They make certain the components of your life care umbrella are soundly in place, covering every facet of your valuable life.
After 26 years of observing a constantly consolidating health care system that was hungry for profits, I realized that as a life care planner I could be effective as a determined David committed to showing a thing or two to Goliath. And it won’t be long before traditional advisors acknowledge the need for independent health care advocates and life care planners, who are passionate about protecting you physically, emotionally and financially.