Being a Patient Advocate: A Guide for Minority Families

If your loved one has a complex or chronic disease, finding your way through the health care maze can be a daunting task. And if you are a member of a racial or ethnic minority, this can be even harder. Minorities often suffer and die from disease at higher rates than non-Hispanic whites.

There are three main points that the health care system fails people of color–access to care, quality of care, and effectiveness of treatments. Patient advocates can help address several of these.

Access

Access is perhaps the largest problem–minorities are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured than whites. Fortunately, this is the best recognized issue, and there are often community resources to help. Your local department of social services, health care clinic, or hospital should be able to provide information on what is available. Sometimes, it is possible to find doctors who will reduce their fees for those with difficulty paying.

Be aware that many doctors forget to consider the patient’s financial situation when prescribing. Ask if generics are available, or whether medications are covered under one of your local pharmacy’s lower price deals.

Quality of Care

Quality of care is a trickier problem. Studies have shown that minorities are less likely to get the interventions they need. For example, a minority patient is less likely to receive adequate medication for pain than a white patient. The reasons for this depend on multiple factors, including provider bias and cultural differences. For instance, with pain, some groups may tend to under-report pain or to describe pain in non-specific ways, or providers may be reluctant to prescribe opiates.

Advocates push the odds more toward the minority patient’s favor by participating in the decision-making process. If the doctor doesn’t seem to understand that your loved one is hurting, you can clearly communicate this information and push for solutions.

You don’t have to be a doctor to be an advocate. Here are some strategies you can use to get your loved one the best possible care

  • Identify the gatekeepers. Every health care organization has people who control access to providers. Generally, these people are the people you will have the most contact with-your loved one’s nurses in a doctor’s office or hospital, or nursing assistants in a long-term care facility. Be aware of shift changes.
  • Cultivate relationships with staff
  • Ask questions and keep asking until you understand your loved one’s diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, and care routine. Ask about how the patient’s medications work and any side effects. You should also ask about possible drug interactions, as this is a common mistake doctors make, especially when there are multiple providers writing prescriptions.
  • Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. If you need help in finding resources, ask.
  • Once you have all agreed on a treatment plan, make sure your loved one is receiving the care ordered.
  • Trust your intuition. If something seems wrong, it may well be. If you are not satisfied, get a second opinion.
  • Learn who to talk to and how to contact them in case of problems.

Effectiveness of Treatments

Sometimes, your loved one may be receiving standard treatment, but it may not be working well. There can be many reasons for this, most of them having to do with the severity of the disease and other illnesses your loved one may have at the same time. If your loved one has both diabetes and heart disease, treatment for one can be complicated by the other. However, research also shows that in some instances medications may affect people differently depending on genetic background (which race can provide some clues to).

For example, gefitinib is a drug that works better than other medications for certain types of cancer in most people with Japanese heritage. It has the same effect on American patients (of all backgrounds) with a specific genetic mutation, but may not work as well as other treatments for the majority of the US population.

Psychoactive drugs are particularly sensitive to genetic differences. African Americans and Native Americans may experience more side effects–and the drugs may not work as well–with these medications than other populations.

If you feel that the medications your loved one has been given are not working, or if the side effects are intolerable, ask your doctor if more appropriate drugs are available.

You’re the Expert

Though doctors and nurses may have specialized knowledge about disease, you are the expert on your loved one. And you can make a big difference in their care.

To Rate Doctors Can Be a Huge Help

Rating professionals is not a new concept for web sites. Most college students are familiar with rate your professor web sites that let them rate and review their professors. And thanks to consumer driven web sites, consumers are already familiar with rating their contractors, dry cleaners and other professionals hired for a job. But, now there are web sites that allow consumers to rate doctors.

Rating doctors however is not quite the same as rating other professionals, as many doctors who oppose the web site concept have pointed out. For one thing, if you don’t like your dry cleaner or contractor, and post a poor review of their services, it is fairly straight forward to assess blame. Your contractor, for example, can reply to your post and review about their performance, and give the public their version of events. The doctor, on the other hand, is bound by privacy laws and there fourth doesn’t have the luxury of a posting a public reply.

This situation has the potential to create postings that rate doctors as slightly one sided. To counter this side effect the more reputable web sites won’t post any anonymous postings, so any patient who chooses this public forum to rate doctors, does so with their name also attached. But despite these safeguards, a patient can choose to leave out information or exaggerate information to suite their rating, even if they don’t do it intentionally.

Advocates, who favor the rating system, argue that these web sites, allow patients to have a voice and be heard in the medical world. The medical world, as patient advocates point out, can be an intimidating system to navigate.

Some could argue the point that having a web site that allows patients to rate doctors levels the playing field and gives both sides some power and a voice. Doctors after all have been used to having the final say and having all of the power in these relationships. It has only been lately with the help of the internet that patients have been able to surf the web and get some insight into their own medical condition, tipping the sense of power into balance.

Still, despite the pros and cons of a system that can rate doctors as easily as it can rate your contractor, it is doubtful that these web sites will disappear or loose their ability to alter perceptions. However, patients who post reviews should strive to be accurate, factual and honest and consumers who read the reviews for guidance should be careful to not dismiss a doctor based on one bad review, bearing in mind that not all of the facts are being laid out from just one person’s perspective.

Life Insurance Settlements – Unlock the Cash From Your Life Insurance Policy Today

A life settlement, or the sale of a life insurance policy, is gaining popularity as a new opportunity for seniors to generate cash. By “cashing in” a life insurance policy, one can reap the rewards of an immediate cash payout without lapsing or surrendering the policy to the insurance company.

Faced with rising insurance premiums, increasing cost of healthcare and long-term care, more seniors today are choosing to sell their policies to third parties for a lump sum payment. Rather than let their policy lapse, seniors have the option of cashing out early and enjoying a higher quality of life.

Seniors can use the cash they receive from the sale to help pay for medical expenses, long-term care expenses, or everyday living expenses. Additionally, seniors are using the “unlocked” cash to travel, invest in a business or new property, or support their children and grandchildren. There are no restrictions or limits to how the cash may be used once the policy is sold.

How does it work?
Seniors who are over 70 and own a policy worth over $200,000 can sell their policy to an insurance buyer, otherwise known as life insurance broker or life settlement brokers.

By purchasing the whole, term, or universal life insurance policy, the buyer becomes the new policy owner. This means that the buyer takes over the premium payments and ultimately collects the full amount of the death benefit.

Who benefits?
As the policy holder, seniors may enjoy a higher cash payout upfront and the savings when the buyer takes over the ongoing insurance premium payments.

What’s the catch?
There is no catch. Settlements are legal and legitimate. Life insurance buyers are able to offer a cash payout because of the structure of their businesses and the financial market.

What should I know before considering a settlement?
The ideal time to sell a policy, otherwise known as taking a life settlement, is when:

1. The policy holder is over age 70
2. The policy is worth $200,000 or more
3. The policy holder is chronically ill, and/or their health is declining
4. Additional cash is needed to pay for cost of health care of long-term care
5. Policy holder is experiencing financial difficulties or needs additional funds to improve the quality of life
6. There is difficulty paying the premiums and are at risk of lapsing the insurance policy
7. The senior would like to remain financially independent

How much money can I expect to receive?
The lump sum payment will be determined on a case-by-case basis. It depends on a number of factors, including age and medical condition, the type and value of the policy and the premiums required to keep the policy active. A no-obligation appraisal of your policy can be requested before making the decision to sell it.

Any policy owner, including individuals, corporations, charities or trusts, may sell any insurance policy, including group and term policies.

What types of life insurance policies can be sold?
Universal Life, Whole Life, Variable Universal Life, Term, and Convertible Term Life policies, Joint and second-to-die policies are all policies eligible for sale.

How long does it take to get the funds once my policy is sold?
A general time frame is four to eight weeks to receive funds though the timing can vary. The buyers work to complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the money can be released to our clients as fast as possible.

Will I owe taxes on the money I receive?
Generally, the money received from selling the insurance policy will be tax-free up to the original policy’s tax-basis. Consult with a tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

How do I find a buyer for my policy?
Experts at http://www.LifeInsuranceBuyer are committed to achieving the highest value for their client’s insurance policies. Serving their clients with integrity and respect, Life Insurance Buyer offers free, no obligation, confidential policy appraisals for all qualified individuals. Contact Life Insurance Buyer at 1-800-LI-BUYER or 1-800-542-8937 to discuss your policy.

Different Life Insurance Policies, Different Rates – But, Now’s The Time To Reevaluate Your Policy

Here are the top four life insurances listed from most expensive to the least expensive.

Universal life insurance

Whole life insurance

Return of Premium life insurance (R.O.P.)

and least expensive of all – Standard Term life insurance

The least expensive may sound good but it may not necessarily be the best insurance for you and your family. A lot of people may have different policies. Two or even three. Each one covering a specific need.

Okay, let’s get to these important tips that could save you money when shopping for life insurance.

Buy life insurance while you’re young.

The younger you are when you purchase a life insurance policy the better. Your rates will be much lower. Buying life insurance for your children when they are young will keep their premiums low for the rest of their lives. Up to 10 times lower!

Find a life insurance policy that meets all your needs.

In other words, a policy that is’ tailor-made’ just for you and your family. Everyone has different needs.

You have a home with a 30 year mortgage that you would want to protect with a 30 year policy. You are 30 to 40 years of age. You should consider a small Whole life insurance policy with an additional 20 year Term life policy. Perhaps you are close to retirement. A 10 year Term life insurance policy may be right for you.

If you are a smoker, you want to consider a short term life insurance policy. (Just quit smoking!! Get a new policy! Many policies are much cheaper for a non-smoker. You will not only get healthier, but think of the money you’ll be saving! Not just on your premiums, but on all that you spend on tobacco!! )

How much life insurance should you purchase to meet your needs and the needs of your family?

First, you need to sit down and figure out what your needs are and the needs of your family.

You need to be prepared when dealing with insurance companies. Their goal is to make money off you. They will do their very best to try and sell you more coverage than you really need. Only purchase enough coverage that will take care of your family if something should happen to you. Such as, burial expenses, out-standing debts, mortgage, etc. Enough insurance for them to live on in a way they have become accustom to. (Note: An average standard is 10 times your yearly gross income plus any large debts you may have.)

The reason one should need to purchase more life insurance than needed is if you are leaving behind a large estate. This would be to keep the assets of your estate from being taxed.

If an insurance company is trying to push you to buy more coverage than you need, move on to another insurance company! There is no trick to buying life insurance. It’s not only fast and easy; It’s free on the internet! You can get many different quotes from many different insurance companies in no time at all and save you a lot of money.

Save money by matching the right insurance company to your lifestyle Let’s say that you have a high risk occupation. Such as an airplane pilot or construction worker. Or perhaps you have a high risk hobby. Such as jumping out of an airplane rather then piloting one. Insurance companies are well aware that they are taking a big. Therefore, they will charge you much higher rates figuring that you may not be paying them premiums as long as they had planned on.

The insurance companies will still insure ‘high risk’ people. But the amount of those individuals is limited. Example: An insurance company, let’s say, has a limit of 10,000 policies that they will issue to a ‘high risk’ individual. Each individual pays $1,000 per year for their policy. Now, after the insurance company reaches their limit of 10,000 policy holders, a ‘new’ high risk individual, (#10,001), is going to pay double for that exact same policy. Why? Because insurance companies are NOT going to exceed that limit and put their assets at risk. They need to compensate by charging higher rates to everyone over that limit.

Take notice of fluctuating rates as your insurance policy increases Some insurance companies are willing to give you a bit of a price break when you increase the amount of your coverage. It is possible to get a $300,000 policy from one insurance company for less than a $275,000 from another insurance company, even if both insurance companies charge the exact same price for that $275,000 policy.

It really pays to check both above and below the coverage you are looking at. You may be surprised at what you might find when you compare.

Are you paying too much for life insurance through you place of employment? Chances are, yes! You see your employer and the insurance company work together to agree on one set ‘group’ rate. Meaning, all employees’ pays the same price for their life insurance policy. They are going to figure in the number of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ employee’s. Now, we already know that a person who is unhealthy will pay more.

Not the case through work. Everyone pays the same rate. The ‘group’ rate’. Therefore, if you are one of the ‘healthy’ employee’s, chances are, you are pay too much because you are paying a portion of the ‘unhealthy’ employee’s premium payment.

Let’s say that in a normal situation, an insurance companies rate would be $50 per week for a healthy person and $100 per week for an unhealthy person. In a ‘group’ rate situation, a set rate would be $75 per week for everyone. Every employee whether healthy or not.

That means that a healthy employee is getting an extra $25 per week taken out of their paycheck to help pay for a portion of the ‘unhealthy’ employee’s premiums.

If this is your case, the wise thing to do, if you are one of the ‘healthy’ employee’s, is to take that $75 per week out of your paycheck yourself and invest it in a life insurance policy that is tailor-made just for you. You would now be in control. You must also keep in mind that if you should ever leave this job, or retire, most likely you would lose any life insurance benefits you had through the company. By investing in your own policy, (and as long as you pay your premiums,) you would never be in fear of losing a policy that you may have paid many, many years in to.

You may save money by paying your premium payments annually.

By making annual premium payments, your life insurance company may give you a discount rate. After all, they are saving money with less labor and less paper work compared to those who pay monthly. If annual payments won’t work for you, ask the insurance company if they will offer a discount on your monthly premium if you pay by credit card. Many insurance companies don’t just willingly offer a discount. So don’t be afraid to ask!

Watch out for “Age Nearest” in your policy

When an insurance company raises your rates as you get older, these increases may not occur on your birthday as most would assume. The fact is, most insurance companies will raise the rates of your policy six months prior to your birthday. They call this ‘Age Nearest’. This could end up costing you a lot of money over the length of your policy. Make sure that you ask your insurance company ‘how’ and ‘when’ they increase their rates.

When to reevaluate your life insurance policy

There are several reasons for reevaluating your life insurance policy every year or so. Insurance rates are dropping, mainly because the internet has made it so easy for everyone to get life insurance quotes. This is resulting in a fierce competition between insurance companies. People are also living longer these days. That means longer policies for the insurance companies and longer premium payments.

It is possible to double your existing policy without paying any more than you are now. Anytime there is a substantial change in your life, you need to reevaluate your life insurance policy. You could be paying for coverage that you no longer need such as, your mortgage, your debts, or you no longer have dependants living at home.

Or, You may need to increase your coverage because, you had a child or purchased a new home. Very, very few insurance companies will ask you on a yearly basis if there are any major changes in your life. You need to inform them and ask them to reevaluate your policy. You can get a cheap life insurance quote but you have to ask and compare.