Before Your First Doctor’s Visit
Navigating health care as a young adult can be daunting, from understanding insurance to finding a provider, it can be overwhelming! When I began setting up my doctors visits myself, I had difficulty understanding what to do or the process of it all. While the clinic offices I went to were helpful, learning what to do beforehand helped me feel more comfortable and confident with managing my health care.
Finding a Provider
A straightforward way to find a provider in your network is to reach out to your insurance and ask for a list of providers in your area. Your insurance will ask for your zip code and will usually send this information over to your email. Once you have done your own research into which provider sounds the best for you, give the office a call and schedule an appointment! I knew I would feel more comfortable with a female provider, especially since I would need pelvic exams, so I made sure to narrow my search to that specification.
If you do not have an insurance, another great way of finding a provider is reaching out to your local Planned Parenthood or using the clinic finder on bedsider.org. The clinic finder can assist you by narrowing clinics to locations nearby and listing the features each location has available, like whether the office accepts uninsured patients and provides financial assistance.
If you are concerned about a clinic not being able to see you for your needs, give the office a call before making a visit. It is important and necessary to advocate for yourself, especially in a health care setting. Do not be afraid to ask for financial assistance, ask for an explanation behind your care, or ask for accommodations!
If you are using insurance, you may have heard the words “copay” and “deductible” tossed around. Both copays and deductibles are out of pocket medical costs and are important to keep in mind when choosing a plan. A deductible is the set amount you pay towards your health care before your insurance starts to pay. A copay is a fixed amount you pay when going to your appointments. Your copay and deductible will differ depending on what plan you have signed up for and may change year to year. Some insurance cards may have your copays listed, if not, you can always reach out and ask your insurance too.
If you have Medicaid, your copay will vary depending on which state you are in. Most copays with Medicaid are much smaller than a copay through private insurance. If you do have Medicaid, be aware the insurance is only valid in that specific state. You won’t have coverage in California with New York Medicaid!
Primary Care Providers
If you are looking to begin medical care, whether you have a history of medical needs or not, you are looking for a primary care provider. These providers act as your first contact and point of communication for any continuing care needs. For example, when I had pain in my knee, I spoke with my primary care provider who prescribed me medication and scheduled a follow up in case the pain did not subside. My provider also sees me for annual exams, Pap smears, birth control, and STI checks.
If I have a medical concern my primary care provider cannot assist me with, she can refer me to another provider who can. If you have a history of medical needs that should be discussed with your new provider, reach out to your old clinic or provider, and ask them to send your medical records to assist with the transition of care. If you forget this step before your appointment with your new provider, let the office know so you can fill out paperwork stating consent to release your medical forms from your former office to the current one.
Annuals vs Physicals
Some clinics may ask if you want an annual exam or a physical. While it sounds like the same thing, these types of appointments are different, and may also be billed differently with your insurance. No matter your needs, it is important to know what you are asking for. An annual wellness exam will collect standard vitals, such as blood pressure, height, and weight. Additional testing may be done if you have a history of medical concerns. A physical exam is more in depth; your provider will inspect your ears, nose, lungs, throat, and eyes in addition to the things done in an annual exam. Both types of exams clarify the general status of your health, as well as provide time to ask your provider any questions or concerns you have.
Karissa Samonte is a Digital Programs fellow with a dedication towards reproductive justice and equitable access to health care. She received her B.A in Government from George Mason University and has previously worked with the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood.