I have to admit…talking about financial stuff was one of the most uncomfortable parts of my job as a service coordinator. Asking families about their income and even their tax information to assess their ability to pay for EI services…not fun for me or them. As with many aspects of service coordination, I found that it was all about how I approached the topic and how I presented the information. I could either make my discomfort clear by squirming or apologizing for even having the ask the questions, which would most likely increase the family’s discomfort too. Or, I could approach it professionally and sensitively, explaining why the information was needed while ensuring that the family was aware of their rights. I think that’s the important part…balancing the need to know with the family’s rights and comfort level.
Here are a few tips for discussing financial “stuff” with families:
Be sure YOU understand first
Be sure that you understand why this info is needed and what it’s used for. If you haven’t yet, take the time to read the Facts about Family Cost Share section in the Notice of Child and Family Rights document (PDF, New Window)and the Family Cost Share Agreement (PDF, New Window)document. Read Chapter 11 in the Practice Manual (PDF, New Window)for detailed information too.
Wait to build rapport
Take time to get to know the family and help them warm up to the early intervention process before asking sensitive questions. We need to gather info for the Family Cost Share Agreement early in the process, but it doesn’t need to be one of the first things we ask about. Of course, if it IS something the family brings up right away, seize the opportunity. Families may be concerned about how they will afford services, so alleviating their concerns can also be a helpful way to build rapport. Follow their lead when you can, and be patient when it’s your turn to lead.
Begin your conversation about financial stuff by explaining why you are even bringing it up. Be confident in your explanation, provide the facts in a way that makes sense to the family, and ask if the parent has any questions. Help families understand the concept of “ability to pay” by ensuring them that you are a resource for them and that they will not be denied EI services due to an inability to pay. Talk about the financial appeal process, confidentiality of EI records, and how insurance can be accessed to pay for services (with parental permission). Take your time explaining why and monitor the family to ensure that they don’t become overwhelmed. Remember that you may need to revisit this information again later to ensure that they have what they need to make informed decisions about EI services.
Make space for the parent to read
Encourage the parent to read the information about the family cost share process. Parents may feel rushed to move forward to eligibility determination and assessment for service planning, but let them know that they can take their time to become informed about the financial stuff before signing any documentation.
Check in often and stay up-to-date
When you do your regular service coordination contacts with the family, check in about any changes in the family’s financial and insurance status. Asking about this can become an expected part of the conversation. The more you keep aware of the financial stuff, the better you will be able to assist the family with managing changes, such as changes to the family cost share agreement, to needs for insurance coverage, or even to new needs for resources like Medicaid waivers. (For info about Virginia Medicaid Waivers, check out the archived Talks on Tuesday webinar: My Life, My Community: Medicaid Waiver Redesign.)
Talking about the financial stuff can be challenging, but the more you know and the more confident you are, the easier the conversation will be for you and for the family.
What strategies do you use to put families at ease with financial conversations?
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