Something special is happening for me this month. I am getting health insurance for the first time in a few years. I have been living in fear this whole time. I am so relieved to finally get covered. Choosing my health plan was less about me and more about the doctor I wanted specifically as our “Primary Care Physician” (PCP) to continue a relationship with my kids.
I called the doctors, the hospitals and specialists that we have used before and figured out the health plan that would include most of them and that’s how I chose my health insurance. But for many who are just getting coverage they do not have a doctor that they are following. They are choosing the plan based on their financial considerations solely. Now with a new health insurance service most need to identify a Primary Care Physician. With thousands of doctors in network, where do you start? This is a very important relationship, especially if you have kids. You need to spend some time investigating your potential candidates before signing on the dotted line. Here are 7 tips to demonstrate how to choose a doctor as your primary care physician. They will get you started on a path towards a new doctor-patient relationship and better health.
Google the doctors and their practices looking for reviews, complaints, praise, affiliations … anything that will give you a deeper insight into the character and practice of the PCP candidates you are interested in.
You need a doctor that is located somewhere convenient to you. MapQuest their practice and satellite offices. Inquire about designated parking. Take a drive by and see the area for yourself. Convenience, safety, maneuverability are all valid issues.
Even the best doctor is no good for you if their hours aren’t convenient to your real life. Call the office and ask about the clinics’ general hours, and the doctors’ specific hours.
Knowing the potential hours is just part of the picture, you also need to know the real availability of your potential doctor. Ask the practice manager how far out a patient needs to make an appointment for a “well visit”. Then ask them how easy it is to get a same day or next day appointment for illness.
Ok you have the hours and the practical availability the next piece is vacations and coverage. Many doctors have regular vacations that they take every year. Inquire as to what your potential doctor’s yearly schedule is and who covers for them in their absence. Unfortunately, sickness does not take a regular vacation so you need to make sure that, should a need arise while your doctor is on break, your needs will still be covered.
Which hospital does the doctor or practice have privileges at. Of course no one wants to think about a hospital visit, but this is about insurance against the possible not the probable. Not all hospitals are made alike. You want to find a doctor that has privileges at one that you would feel safe at.
7. Special Circumstances
I am allergic to cigarette smoke. It always shocks me when I go to a doctor and they smell of smoke, but it happens. perhaps you have a similar allergy or some other special circumstance that must be addressed. Ask. This is your life we are talking about. Don’t be shy.
1.6 million Americans are still without health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is their pathway to better health. The deadline to get covered is coming up on March 31st, 2014. After that Americans will pay a fine. Don’t delay. Get your insurance and pick your doctor today.
You can read about the health bucket list I plan to work on now that I have health insurance again. 10 Things I Would Do With Health Insurance
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