Healthcare is a complicated subject in the United States. From insurance plans to primary care physicians (and all the specialists, treatments, and facilities in between), the average American has a lot of decisions to make when seeking medical care.
Finding a doctor can be especially difficult given the restrictions of various insurance providers—with dozens of providers and even more individual plans available, sifting through such a vast amount of information can feel incredibly overwhelming. Let’s take a look at a few tips that will help make the process a bit more manageable.
Determine What Kind Of Health Insurance You Have (Or Need)
Before you can settle on a primary care physician, you need to learn more about your insurance plan—or settle on one, to begin with. This is because certain family medical doctors only accept certain types of insurance; if your visit isn’t covered by your insurance, you’ll have to pay additional costs to be seen.
As important is determining whether your doctor is In-Network or Out-of-Network. According to CareFirst, a subsidiary of the insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield, a health insurance network is defined as “a group of doctors and medical care providers across multiple specialties that have a contract to provide health care services to members of a health insurance plan.” Put simply, visiting a doctor outside of this network means you will need to pay more because they are not a part of that exclusive contract.
Fortunately, you don’t have to commit to a yearlong insurance plan—many of which are quite costly—to get coverage. Several states offer flexible insurance programs; if it’s getting close to your annual checkup, you can sign up for health insurance for one month, three months, or six months depending on where you live. These plans are often much more affordable compared to their lengthy counterparts, yet they can still provide the coverage you need.
Keep in mind, however, that if you opt for a plan that gives you health insurance for one month at a time, you still need to make sure it covers what you’re concerned about (such as prescriptions, routine checkups, etc.). These short-term plans don’t need to meet the same regulations as those insurance programs found in the Health Insurance Marketplace, which means the coverage offered varies significantly from one plan to another.
Qualities and Qualifications
Once you obtain the specifics regarding your insurance plan, you can start actively searching for family medical doctors, specialists, or any other type of medical professional you’re interested in. When arriving at your first appointment, there are a few very important details you’ll want to keep an eye on. Your doctor should:
- Treat you with respect.
- Listen to your concerns.
- Encourage questions.
- Explain concepts in a way you understand.
All of the above are vital to a healthy doctor-patient relationship. Whether you’ve chosen a private practice or a general care facility, you need to feel as though your concerns are valid, that you’re being heard, and that your doctor actually cares about your wellbeing. Listen to your gut during that first visit; if you feel you’re being mocked, condescended to, or outright ignored, it’s time to move on to another physician.
Research is key in both areas. You must be willing to take a close look at the insurance plans available to you—whether they’re short-term or long-term—as well as view your experience with a potential new doctor with an objective perspective. If you plan ahead and take your time in your search, you’ll end up with an insurance plan that gives you exactly what you need and a doctor who you can trust.