With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of newly insured Americans can now afford routine health care. If you are among the previously uninsured who have skipped annual exams, preventative screens, or have delayed addressing a health complaint, you may be unsure how to enter into the health care system.
The best place to start is with your insurance company’s provider directory. There you will find a list of doctors, pharmacies and health facilities that accept your insurance plan. You will find this directory at your insurer’s website. You may have also received a directory in the mail with your insurance policy documents. Also, you can always contact a physician’s office and ask if they accept your insurance plan.
From the directory, select a Primary Care Physician (PCP). While some health plans do not require that you select a PCP, which allows you to visit any doctor in the health plan’s network, you will want one doctor to coordinate your care. It is important that you find a doctor with whom you feel comfortable. The Administrators in Medicine’s DocFinder tool provides profiles of doctors across the country and may help with your selection.
The distribution of doctors across the country is uneven. Rural communities and inner city neighborhoods are often underserved. If you have difficulty finding a doctor who is taking new patients, you may find quality health care at a community health center. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Find a Health Clinic tool gives you access to their extensive database of clinics.
Once you establish a doctor-patient relationship with a physician of your choice, your doctor will be able to refer you to specialists, laboratories, hospitals and outpatient surgical centers. If you have an emergency, one that poses an immediate threat to your life and health, you may go to the nearest hospital emergency room, including those not in your health plan’s network. A provision of the ACA requires that your insurance company cover urgent care services. Any co-payments or deductibles you pay for emergency care must be no greater than you are required to pay at an in-network facility.
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.