Making Medical Appointments
Making medical appointments and learning about health insurance is an important step in becoming a responsible adult. Take the time to learn about what doctor, insurance plan, and clinic is best for you so that you not only get all the medical help you need, but you can make sure you are able to afford it as well!
- Prevent Illness Before it Happens
- Who to Call?
- Insurance: Be Covered!
- Insurance Cards
- Where to Start
Prevent Illness Before it Happens
Most young adults spend some time in group living situations, like living in a dorm or shared apartment. When you live with other people, germs spread easily. To make sure you stay as healthy as possible, take the time to get a flu shot and make sure you have all the necessary immunizations.
Make sure you know how to take care of a cold when you do get sick. This is an important step in preventative medicine so that you don't end up having to take time off school or work because you're sick. Make sure to get your flu shot annually.
Generally you should go to the doctor for a physical once a year. During this appointment, your doctor will make sure you are not ill, and will give you immunizations, and/or treat existing conditions.
Find a doctor that you like and trust. It is important to establish a good relationship with your doctor so you feel comfortable discussing all your health needs. You should continue to go to the same doctor every time, if possible. This way they will know more about your past health history and can better help you with future health goals and issues.
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Who to Call?
If you have specific health concerns, you'll want to see someone who specializes in that area. You may need to get a referral from your primary care doctor before seeing a specialist, depending on your insurance. Here is a list of different types of doctors that you may want to see.
- Audiologist: Hearing
- Allergist: Allergies
- Andrologists and urologists: Male reproductive system
- Dermatologist: Skin
- ENT Specialist or Otolaryngologists: Ear, nose, and throat
- Family Practitioner: General doctor, physicals
- Gynecologist: Female reproductive system
- Internist: Adult internal disease treatment and prevention, general practitioner
- Psychiatrist: Mental health
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Insurance: Be Covered!
Insurance is a big deal. Health care costs without insurance are expensive. Insurance will cover a portion of the cost, making health care more affordable.
If you are a United States (U.S.) citizen, you are required to have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes it easier to get coverage. ACA provides citizens with more rights and protections, more affordable coverage, better access to care, and stronger Medicare.
Special Note About Insurance For College Students!
- You may be covered under your parents' insurance. If you live in the U.S., you can stay on your parent's plan until age 26.
- If you are not covered, there are often student health plans available through your school. About 60 percent of U.S. colleges currently offer student health plans, with lower eligibility than other plans. In most places, you just have to be enrolled as a full time student. But, be careful and make sure you read the policy benefits under your plan. This will help you determine what's covered, so you don't end up with a large medical bill.
- If your school does not offer a student health plan, and you are currently uninsured, don't worry! You can go to a health insurance provider and get an individual health plan. Shop around for plans that fit your needs.
- If you have a pre-existing condition, you can still get health insurance. Your state may also offer programs (high-risk pools) to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
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Have your insurance card ready when you go to the doctor or to pick up a prescription. Your card will have basic information on it including the insurance provider, the policy number, and the expiration date. This information helps healthcare providers and pharmacies know how much to charge you (or not charge you) for a procedure.
Knowing your policy benefits can make a huge difference, especially if you are involved in a medical emergency. Before getting insurance, you will find out about what and how much your insurance covers. You can often find this information on your insurance provider's website.
Also, stay updated! Make sure you are aware of any changes in your insurance benefits. Under ACA, insurance is required to cover:
- Ambulatory patient services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
- Laboratory services
- Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
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Where to Start
Look into finding a physician you can go to regularly for your check-ups and illness. Having one physician who knows about multiple aspects of your health ensures you get the best care.
If your college has an on-site clinic, that may be a good place to start. If this isn't an option for you, look into nearby clinics in the area or private family care physicians. Be careful to check what insurance plans they accept. This is important because health care can be expensive – it is easy to call the clinic receptionist and your insurance company to get everything sorted out before you arrive.
If you don't like the first doctor you see, try to find another one. Having a doctor you don't care for and don't trust is never helpful. Plus, there are plenty of great doctor's out there!
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If you are over 18 and go to the doctor, you do not need to worry about anyone contacting your parents. If you are under the age of 18, most of your health care appointments need to be in the company of an adult, but issues regarding sexual/reproductive health, substance abuse, or mental health can be cared for without parental consent. There are confidentiality laws in place to protect your rights, so that you can feel comfortable talking to your health care provider.
Confidentiality laws state that a doctor cannot tell their patients' parents anything discussed unless given permission. These laws are put into place to give you the best health care possible. It is helpful to your doctor and other health care providers if you are honest with them because it will allow them to better identify the source of your illness.
Even though your doctor has to follow confidentiality laws, you need to consider confidentiality and your insurance plan. Many times, young adults are under their parents' insurance into their mid-twenties, and unfortunately there are not confidentiality agreements with insurance plans.
If you are meeting with a doctor about a service you do not want your parents to learn about, make sure to ask the doctor whether or not a labeled fee with show up on your parents' insurance statement. Another great resource is community clinics such as Planned Parenthood, but be careful and make sure you ask about their confidentiality practices.
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- Megan Brown, public health education interns
- Nicole Aguirre, public health education interns
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: August 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Health Reform in Action: Affordable Care Act, WhiteHouse.gov.
Student Health Insurance, HealthInsurance.org.
For More Information:
See our Transition to Adult Care article.
See our Privacy of Information article.