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Of all the various things that make up successfully “adulting,” definitely one of the most complex is navigating the U.S. healthcare system. But few things are more important than ensuring you know how to get the care you need when you need it.
Whether you are preparing to head off to college, you’re already in the “real world,” or you are a parent who wants to make sure your child is on the right path, you need to know how to get insurance coverage, find a doctor, and make sure you are properly advocating for yourself when you need care.
While the U.S. healthcare system is confusing and intimidating, taking the time to learn about your options and rights will help you feel more comfortable in time. And the earlier you start to prepare, the better.
That means, if you are able, talk to your parents about:
You may be able to continue seeing your pediatrician, but if not, it’s important to learn about the above steps.
If you’ve spent your whole life up to this point just going to the doctor and letting your parents take care of the details, you may not know about all of the insurance options out there. These can include:
It’s important to understand your options and your budget before making any decisions for coverage. Also familiarize yourself with the definitions of terms like:
While you don’t need to become a policy expert, you should be aware of some of the basics of the most important healthcare laws. These include:
There are also a host of state laws regarding insurance, vaccinations, and many other issues. You should familiarize yourself with those laws where you live.
It’s not enough to just make an appointment when you need one. Confidently communicating your issues to your doctor and insurance company, following doctor’s orders (including medication), understanding insurance forms, and knowing the right questions to ask are essential.
If you’re meeting with a new doctor, it’s not enough to just say that you “feel fine” at the time of your first appointment. Your doctor will want to know about any past health issues affecting either you or family members. This can include relatives who have had cancer or other conditions where you might be at a higher risk. Take the time to discuss these issues with your parents or other relatives, so that you know how to confidently speak about them to your doctor.
Even those of us who have had many years of experience navigating the healthcare system still encounter moments of great confusion and frustration. Until there are any major changes, however, this is the system we have.
But that does not mean you just need to grin and bear it alone. Chances are, your parents, family, or friends, or anyone you feel comfortable discussing your healthcare situation with, have encountered similar situations. They can share important advice with you.
Additionally, the federal government provides online help for acquiring insurance. There are also likely attorneys near you who have experience dealing with unfair insurance claim denials or serious matters like medical malpractice.
There is help out there. While the healthcare system is complex, giving yourself time to learn and get comfortable will help you be more confident about taking charge of your care.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified health lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local health attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
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