Trend:Health advocates grow in popularity

In theory, the health system already offers patients advisors and advocates like social workers and case managers. In practice, however, many families still feel overwhelmed, particularly when they're dealing with complex issues that produce conflicting medical opinions and insurance challenges. To address such issues, consumers are increasingly turning to private health advocates, which, while they've existed for a while, are becoming far more of a mainstream option.

Fees for such services vary, from the $150 per hour charged by some trained professionals to the $3,000 membership and $30,000 per year that Baltimore-based advocate firm Pinnacle Care International sometimes charges.

Advocates vary widely, as there is no certification available for the profession. Some may be former  nurses or social workers, while others may simply have personal health care system experience. While New York's Sarah Lawrence College has had a master's in health advocacy degree available since 1980, it's still the only school to offer this degree. No state has an official licensing process in place.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this San Francisco Chronicle piece

Related Article:
New York plan adds advocate coverage. Report