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Business Beat

November 14, 2012

Patient advocacy comes to Oneonta

A longtime physician assistant has entered the growing field of patient advocacy in Oneonta.

Mark VanLaeys has spent 30 years in health care, mostly in Oneonta, before beginning his practice Nov. 1.

“A patient advocate is somebody who works in partnership with a patient, in my case in conjunction with the health care provider to get the best available care for the patient’s most pressing needs,” VanLaeys said.

VanLaeys said he does not work for insurers.

“I’m an independent patient advocate, meaning my only allegiance is to the patient,” he said.

“I don’t make decisions based on what insurance companies tell me to do,” he added.

Indeed, insurers won’t pay for VanLaeys’ service, but he said he can help some patients recoup their out-of-pocket cost by saving them money on their prescriptions.

“I hope to offset expenses the patients incur while working under me by things like having them be able to decrease their medications, having them also … switch them to medications which can be considerably less expensive and yet equally effective,” he said, emphasizing that any such decisions would be made in consultation with a patient’s physician.

“Doctors are sometimes not very concerned about how much out-of-pocket expenses patients have, and I’m very concerned about out-of-pocket expenses,” he said.

He said he also can help patients deal with insurers.

“I have worked with insurance companies, and I will, as I’m tying to seek better care for a patient in terms of coverage,” he said. “I will be able to pull more strings than the average person. I will know what I’m talking about as I work my way up through the telephone workers.”

VanLaeys doesn’t diagnose or treat, but he said he can help patients sort through treatment options and make the best decisions.

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