Find a doctor before you’re sick

When you’re coughing up a lung or doubled over in pain, the last thing in the world you feel like doing is meeting someone new. It’s so much better to have already established a relationship with a primary care doctor before you’re actually sick.

If you have health insurance (and thanks to Uncle Sam, we’re all supposed to,) certain types of visits may be covered at 100%.

The best way to find a good doctor is to ask family and friends for recommendations. You can call their office and ask if he/she is covered by your insurance, or if you don’t have anyone in mind, follow the steps below for setting up an appointment with a new doctor.

1 - If you haven’t already set it up, create a log-in to your insurance company’s website. You can find the web address on the back of your insurance card.

2 - You have to put in your demographics and policy info, so have your card handy.

3 - Once you’ve logged in, there should be a “find a doctor” button. You’ll be prompted for what kind of doctor you’re looking for. For a general doctor, choose “family practice” or “internist.”

4 - On most sites, you may also filter any preferences: doctor’s gender, distance from your home address, language(s) spoken, etc. You’ll also want to filter “accepting new patients.”

5 - Don’t worry if your doctor isn’t really a “doctor.” Many clinics use Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP), who diagnose, treat, and write prescriptions just like a doctor can.

6 - You’ll may find several doctors with the same address and phone number, because a medical practice with a group of doctors will list each doctor individually. If one accepts your insurance, usually the whole group will.

7 - Once you’ve narrowed your search, start at the top and start calling for an appointment. The first questions to ask are: “Are you accepting new patients?” (Even if the website says they are, it’s not always updated,) and “How long do you usually have to wait for a sick visit appointment?” You don’t want to establish a relationship with a doctor you can never get in to see if you’re sick. A well-visit check-up may have a longer wait for a visit, so don’t be disappointed if it’s even a month or so away.

8 - Tell them you are trying to establish a relationship with a new doctor, and ask what type of visit will be covered by your insurance. A “check-up” may be covered, whereas a “get to know you” visit may not.

A doctor’s office may not be your favorite place to hang out, but it is a much better option than a 2:00 a.m. visit to the emergency room because you don’t have a doctor with whom you’ve already established a relationship.

(Excerpt from Adulting Like a Boss, by Laura Thomae Young)


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