By Jeanene Dunn, OHM Staff
There’s nothing like a major public health crisis to drive home the need for affordable and accessible healthcare for all Americans. Just as the pandemic has exposed embarrassing disparities in the U.S., people are recognizing that it is time for change. Nationally, African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater.
The average American just wants a healthcare system where everyone has access to adequate and affordable care. As a matter of fact, Missouri residents will vote on Amendment 2, Medicaid Expansion, on August 4th.
In the meantime, Our Health Matters™ wants to help you, our readers better navigate your way around our current healthcare system. Let’s start at the beginning — selecting a doctor or healthcare provider whether you are insured, underinsured or uninsured, sick or well.
Help, I need a doctor! Where do I start?
Most people go first to the people in their circle: family, friends, coworkers who can offer valuable insight about doctors they know and personal experiences. Rachel, an Our Health MattersTM reader wanted more options than those provided through friends and family so she contacted her insurance company for help to find a doctor near her home. She also used online reviews.
You and your doctor are a team when it comes to managing your health. What are some qualities you should look for when choosing a doctor?
- Treats you with respect
- Listens to your questions and concerns
- Encourages you to ask questions
- Explains things in a simple, easy to understand way
- Provides personalized care based on your needs
Pick up the phone
Once you have created a short list of doctors you’re interested in, call their offices to learn more. Ask plenty of questions that will give you a sense of how the practice operates. You will want to know how soon you can get an appointment. How long you will have to wait to be seen when you arrive? Are evening and weekend appointments available?
Get clear instructions from the scheduling staff about what you will need to bring to your first appointment, e.g., list of medicines, photo ID, etc. You will be required to fill out what seems like a mountain of paperwork. Make sure you’re prepared.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
Insurance is another step in your search
Currently, for insured persons, the health insurance plan provides a list of in-network primary care doctors and specialists from which to choose. The list from your insurance network doesn’t provide much insight on a doctor beyond the basic information: name, practice specialty, address, and if they are taking new patients. Also, ask if they provide telemedicine as an option for assessing your health concerns.
Uninsured or underinsured?
If you are uninsured or underinsured, community health clinics are a great option. They offer full-service healthcare delivery that ranges from urgent care, basic well person checkups to eye care and dental care, to mental health services to pediatric care and much more. These clinics employ a full staff of healthcare professionals to address your needs. Their services are generally provided on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay.
During the pandemic, don’t neglect checkups or necessary care. Right now doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals have made changes to prevent you from being exposed to Covid-19. Call ahead and ask them what you need to know ahead of the visit.
NOTE: This information does not replace the advice of your insurance provider or doctor.
Health.gov – MyHealthfinder
National Poll on Healthy Aging (University of Michigan)
The Institute for Public Health at Washington University