Now that you have health insurance, make sure you are getting the most out of it by getting the health care you need. Most of the time, the best choice you can make is to go to a doctor’s office, clinic, or urgent care in your community. In general you will pay less for care at a doctor’s office or clinic and you won’t have to spend as much time in the waiting room.
When to go to the emergency room
Go to the Emergency Room if you have a true emergency. If you don’t have time to make a call, then it is a true emergency and you should go to the ER. Otherwise, if you’re not sure where to go for care call your health care provider or your insurance company’s advice nurse to find out.
Here are the steps to getting health care:
1) Decide what kind of health care provider you need. There are lots of different kinds of health care providers. Some are doctors who focus on certain types of diseases (specialists), some are doctors who focus on general issues, and some are physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners who aren’t doctors but who have a lot of training and can provide very good health care.
Different Kinds of Primary Care Providers:
- General practice
- Family practice
- Internal medicine
- OB/GYN (women’s health only)
- Geriatrician (older adults)
- Pediatrician (children)
- Nurse practitioner
- Physician assistant
Think about your needs and choose the kind of person you want to be your primary care provider—or main health care provider. Also think about things like where you want your provider’s office to be? Whether you need night and weekend hours? Do you want your provider to speak a certain language? Do you want your provider to be the same gender as you?
2) Find providers who take your insurance. Next find health care providers who meet your requirements and take your health insurance. You can find this out by calling the member services number on your insurance card or going to your insurance company’s website. Make a short list of possibilities and then prioritize them. You can find out which ones you might like most by researching them—read reviews and talk to friends and family to get recommendations.
3) Choose a provider and make an appointment. Don’t wait until you are sick; call the provider’s office to make an appointment right away. When you are a new patient you may have to wait one or two weeks to get an appointment. When you call to make your appointment tell the person on the phone that you are a new patient and confirm that they take your insurance.
4) Go to your appointment. Pick the right place and the right type of health care provider for you and get to know that person so you feel comfortable going to him or her for your health care needs. Prepare for your first appointment by thinking about your health goals as well as your personal and family health history. Your appointment might be short. Make the most of the time you have with your health care provider by preparing your questions and concerns before you go. If you don’t like the provider you can switch by repeating steps 2 and 3.
5) Have a checkup at least once a year to make sure you stay healthy and catch any issues early. Remember annual checkups are at no additional cost to you.
You should have one main health care provider or primary care provider, but you will probably get health services in other places too. Use this sheet to keep track of your health care providers.