The state of health care in America is a topic of continual debate and discussion, from national media coverage to conversations across local communities. The cost of insurance specifically is key to the issue, with ongoing worries about the number of individuals who have either insufficient coverage or none at all.

The concern is justified, as 27.4 million of the nonelderly population were uninsured in the United States in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonprofit researches health care issues facing the nation, and tracks federal health policies. Studies released by the foundation find that nearly 50 percent of people without insurance report they cannot afford the cost of coverage.

Of the more than 27 million uninsured, 11.7 million qualify for health care programs but are not aware of that fact. They are unable on their own to find the help available to offset their medical expenses.

It is for these reasons that Laura (Brebner) Robbins ’10, M.S. ’12, partnered with her brother, Ryan, to create Advocatia Solutions. The Chicago company’s mission is to make accessing health care benefits much easier for uninsured and underinsured patients, from local communities all the way up to national programs.

Laura is the chief operating officer of Advocatia, with Ryan as the chief executive officer. He spearheaded the initiative after working 14 years in the health care industry. He was motivated to take action after seeing the experience an uninsured woman had when navigating the healthcare system. She was eligible for several coverage programs, including Medicaid, but for a variety of reasons was never made aware of her coverage options.

Because she continued to lack insurance, she did not seek treatment until her health reached a crisis point. She opted for an emergency room visit and died within a couple of days in the hospital from cancer that could have been detected at an early stage and been treated to prolong her life.

Because she continued to lack insurance, she did not seek treatment until her health reached a crisis point. She opted for an emergency room visit and died within a couple of days in the hospital.

Ryan and Laura want to prevent such tragic situations from continuing to unfold, which is why they now work to help people find coverage. Often the search is done while an individual is hospitalized, however, they work equally hard to help people be proactive in securing insurance benefits.

“We also partner with hospitals to help increase their reimbursement and decrease their bad debt, with a focus on the uninsured and underinsured,” Laura said. “We determine within 60 seconds what their options are. It’s always the patient first, to connect them to care.”

In simplest terms, Advocatia automates the application and screening process for individuals who do not have health care coverage. The company has developed a benefit-sharing platform used to link coverage options such as Medicaid, hospital charity care programs, and county programs with patients. Financial aid and assistance programs can be checked as well.

Laura (Brebner) Robbins

Laura (Brebner) Robbins

The resulting search locates health care coverage or aid programs the person is qualified to receive. “It’s good for the patient and for the hospital,” Laura said, explaining one program the company offers named Benefit Text. It allows patients to confirm by text their coverage eligibility.

Benefit Screening is another program that hospitals use to enroll patients. Beyond helping them obtain coverage, Benefit Screening increases the reimbursement hospitals receive for treatments. Both it and Benefit Text are trademarked by Advocatia.

Laura has a wide-ranging role as a leader in the company, and her work consistently varies. “There’s some HR, day-to-day operations, work with the team, work on new processes, work with Ryan on the vision of the company, and work with existing clients.” She reflects on her years as an ISU undergraduate and graduate student in the School of Communication when sharing how she prepared for her current career.

“My work at WZND really helped me learn about business, from cold calling to doing job interviews,” Laura said of the semesters she spent in the student-run radio station. “It was a lot of experience in sales that I could talk about later in my own job interviews.”

“We determine within 60 seconds what their options are. It’s always the patient first, to connect them to care.”—Laura (Brebner) Robbins

Such learning opportunities became available to Laura when she transferred from Texas Christian University. She has no regrets about the decision, saying she appreciated the lasting bonds she made with faculty at Illinois State.

She completed courses in Paris through ISU’s Study Abroad program, and was chosen to join Lambda Pi Eta—a national honor society affiliated with the National Communication Association. Laura also taught on campus while completing her master’s degree.

She worked several internships prior to graduation, which helped her secure a job as operations manager for Coyote Logistics after completing her degrees. The position was an excellent opportunity to launch a career that has been so exceptional, Laura was awarded the School of Communication’s Outstanding New Graduate Alumni Award in 2018.

“I was very honored. I know there are a lot of great alums they could have chosen,” said Laura, who makes an effort to stay connected to Illinois State. She frequently returns to visit campus, and actively recruited during her role at Coyote Logistics. She welcomes opportunities to speak with students, and maintains friendships with the many faculty and staff members who helped her prepare for a professional path she did not anticipate, but finds immensely rewarding.

By lessening the confusion of insurance coverage for even a percentage of those who need health care, Laura has succeeded in helping individuals find the path forward to a healthier and happier tomorrow.

Navigating the insurance maze

Individuals in need of medical insurance are often quickly overwhelmed in their search for coverage. Laura Robbins offers advice and specific steps to help people be successful in getting an insurance plan that meets their needs.

  • Research community resources that can assist with the process. This is important because it will help ensure that you know all your options.
  • If you have been to the hospital for care and have an outstanding bill, work with the hospital staff on options for payment. Advise them that you are uninsured or self-pay. They want to help!
  • Be proactive in obtaining coverage and health. Realize that the ACA/Marketplace may have available substitute plans that may work in your situation. Learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • If you have been denied Medicaid before, do not assume this means you will never qualify for coverage. Changes in such things as the number of members in your family, pregnancy, and income impact your eligibility—as well as government changes in the Medicaid program.
  • Know that open enrollment is not the only time that you can begin coverage through a governmental insurance program such as Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). There are qualifying reasons, such as loss of a job, that will allow you to get insurance after open enrollment has ended.