Mar 23 2015

Helping Your Clients Deduct Your Services From Their Income Taxes (IRS and CRA)

People getting ready to take their pillsIt’s a good year to revisit patient advocacy services and income taxes. Our first review came in 2010. We looked again in 2013.  While little (maybe nothing) has changed, this year I have a new suggestion for you – a bit of a twist.

In question is whether or not your patient advocacy services should be included in the list of medical expenses that allow them to be deducted from your clients’ income taxes;  whether they can be used to reach that 10% or 7.5% threshold that allows them to be deductible (for the IRS).  This is all not-so-clearly spelled out in Publication 502 from the IRS and on this list of eligible medical expenses from the CRA.

If your services ARE deductible, that’s a huge WIN-WIN – for you and your client. It makes your services more affordable.

But “not-so-clearly” is still a problem in 2015. As mentioned in previous years, patient advocates or navigators or health advocates or coaches – none of these are specifically included in the list of what can be deducted. Many forms of advocacy are covered – but not using any of the terms we use for our work. We just don’t call ourselves the same names as those services that are listed.

Until the deductibility of patient advocacy services either shows up on the list all on its own, or is tested during an audit, we can only guess that they will be, some day, a bona fide, deductible expense.

But it is most certainly an educated guess. Within the existing list, we have plenty of evidence that the services we provide as advocates are/will be eligible expenses, as follows:

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Mar 16 2015

Celebrating the 5th Annual Private Professional Patient Advocates Week

pppawheaderOur Fifth Annual Private Professional Patient Advocates Week – is this week – March 16 to 22 -and I’m here to share tales of the growth of our profession.

Can it be that patient advocacy as a profession is now so “old” ?  Granted, there were a handful of advocates practicing long before we began to quantify and qualify the profession.  The year 2009, with the launch of NAHAC and APHA / AdvoConnection, marked the beginning of the growth that would make us a recognized profession across North America.

Some background:

From the 30-ish people who joined AdvoConnection in 2009 – for free! – with a belief that this might be an interesting alliance full of possibilities… to the almost 550 members of APHA today, and dozens more who aren’t yet on our current radar…  yes, growing.

So, as I did last year, I thought I’d share a profile of our membership and achievements:

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Mar 09 2015

The 2015 Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award Winner Is…

Ken Schueler, before he passed away in 2011, was the most exemplary of professional, independent patient advocates. He was kind and compassionate, extremely knowledgeable, a great businessman, and a gift to all those who knew him.  One of his former patients said of Ken, “When I contacted Ken Schueler,it was like finding my compass.”

Ken’s ethics and standards were above reproach. He saved lives, improved the quality of life for many, and generously donated his time helping others learn to be great health advocates in order to grow the profession. These important contributions helped to establish and grow our profession of patient advocacy.

schuelerlogoTo celebrate Ken’s life and his contribution to the many patients and advocates he supported and influenced over the years, the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates established the H. Kenneth Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award, requiring those who would earn the award to demonstrate their own contributions to their patient-clients, and to the profession. We did so with the help of Ken’s daughter, Alexandra, a talented and  accomplished young woman in her own right, who worked with us to establish the criteria for the award and continues to serve as a judge each year.

And so, it is with pride that we confer our 2015 Schueler Compass Award to

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Mar 02 2015

Has Your Work Been Plagiarized?

computerthiefThey say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.  While there may be some truth to that, there is no truth to the idea that plagiarism is a form of flattery at all.

In my last post I shared with you my excitement at the advent of some new competition in the advocacy space, and gave you a list of six reasons why competition is a good thing, something to celebrate.

But sometimes there’s a downside to competition, too. 

One such competitor to AdvoConnection, a new directory being set up in hopes of taking your money to match you with patients who need you, makes a mockery of the professionalism of advocates, as if we are the used car salespeople of health care.

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Feb 16 2015

Head to Head, Toe to Toe – And Who Are the Big Winners?

Glückliche Seniorin boxt mit roten BoxhandschuhenLike Jeopardy, I’m going to start by giving you the answer:

  • Patients and Caregivers
  • Smart Health and Patient Advocates

So what’s the question?  That would be:  Who are the biggest beneficiaries when it comes to competition in the health and patient advocate space?

Just want to start with that perspective so we don’t lose sight of it as I begin describing recent events, as a prelude to some big excitement and perhaps, that moment we’ve all been waiting for….

In the eight years I’ve been working on promoting patient advocacy, there was more commotion, more positive movement, more negative noise, and perhaps the most excitement I have seen in the marketplace for patient advocates in just the past 10 days. Quite amazing, really.

That’s the good news.

The bad news?  Sadly, much of it was reported to me in anger and frustration, as if it was a problem – a negative – as in “how could they?”  It’s that C word – competition!  As if competition is a negative thing.

It is not a negative thing – or – at least – it shouldn’t be.  In fact, if anything, competition should be embraced for a number of reasons, with a few whys and hows below.

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Feb 09 2015

200 Patient Advocacy Ideas For You

ideasYes – this post is #201 on this blog since it was first launched on June 1, 2010. At around 800 to 1,000 words per post (average) – that’s a lot of idea sharing.

When the blog was first started, it was intended to speak to both advocates and the patients who needed good ideas and advice.  The AdvoConnection Directory was new. The membership organization, now called the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, was simply called the AdvoConnection Member Organization.  There was no cost to be a member (there is now!) – and yet we still had only about 120 interested parties who had opted in to a regular newsletter and some business advice and tips.

With this post, things have only grown – blossomed really.  Patient and health advocacy and navigation has grown into a bona fide profession, only months away from offering certification, with more than three dozen educational institutions and organizations offering coursework, and thousands of patients having been served by private advocates.

I thought I’d share some statistics with you, just because maybe you’ll be interested in knowing what others with your similar career ideas have been interested in:

  • 200 posts (today is #201)
  • 364 public comments (and hundreds more thru email to me, behind the scenes)
  • 102,177 visitors

The Top 6 Most Popular Posts:

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Feb 02 2015

Remembering the Mean Girls

girlsIn Fall 2010, about 150 health advocates, many of whom were just considering entering the profession, convened in Washington DC for the Second Annual NAHAC Conference. I was there at the invitation of NAHAC, to both be a vendor, and to give a presentation about marketing for advocates. The conference was a resounding success in my estimation, using my two conference-success measuring sticks: 1. I met so many smart, wonderful, passionate people and 2. I learned so much more than I imparted.

But there was one aspect to the conference that left a bad taste in my mouth, marring the experiences of too many, and lighting a fire under me.

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Jan 26 2015

The Two Pieces of Advice You Will Ignore – Until You Are Burned

charredConsider these scenarios:

  • Scenario #1. Jane calls you, in a panic. Her mother, age 88, who lives in your city, has fallen at her nursing home. Mother Frederick has been hospitalized, but Jane can’t get there until late tomorrow and wonders if you would be willing to help her mother until Jane can get there. Of course you can! This is the very reason you are an advocate.
    (Alternatively, Jane asks you to review her mother’s medical bills because she’s afraid her mother’s insurance isn’t covering everything it needs to cover. You, as a medical billing specialist, agree eagerly to help out.)
  • Scenario #2. You’re so excited!  You’ve just learned about patient advocacy as a profession and you know it’s a perfect way for you to make some extra money.  So you start asking your friends if they like the idea – they all do – they think it’s a great idea!  You sit down and do the math…  and decide that yup – let’s go – I’m going to be a patient advocate!  You find your first client, Mr. Howard, and you help him to the max! He is thrilled with the work you did for him.  You know you’ve made the right choice. Patient advocacy is for you.
  • Question #1:  Do you see yourself in either scenario?

So let’s continue….

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