Working on the MSAA helpline we often hear different types of client experiences when it comes to working with one’s healthcare team. Some rave about their doctors and specialists and cannot say enough good things about the care they receive. Others don’t have quite the same positive reviews in their circumstances.
It happens – doctors are not all made equal nor are patients. It’s not a one size fits all perfect scenario that all doctors will be a good fit to all patients they see. But this is ok. Sometimes you have to try out different healthcare providers to see if they work for you and what your needs are. And if they don’t, it is acceptable to move on and see someone else. This is easier said than done sometimes because of factors like insurance, location, transportation, etc. that can cause barriers to access the care needed. However, there are different types of resources and services that may be able to help break down these obstructing walls. I thought it’d be helpful to share some of the common healthcare issues we hear and suggestions we offer regarding healthcare access issues.
My doctor does not/no longer accepts my insurance plan:
- This comes up often – especially with the ever-changing healthcare industry. If you wish to continue seeing your doctor, talk to the office about potential payment plans/negotiating costs for services. Also consider how many times you see the doctor throughout the year and what this might look like if you had to self-pay. If you’re not able to pay out-of-pocket, check with your insurance for other provider referrals that do accept the insurance plan in/near your area. Your current doctor may be able to provide you with referrals to other doctors as well. It’s not ideal having to see a different doctor but maybe there’s a way to keep them as part of your healthcare team.
My doctor is retiring/I am relocating to a different area:
- If your doctor is retiring, check with their office to see if another doctor is taking their place/seeing their patients. See if you can schedule an appointment with the new physician to see if they’ll be a good fit for your care. If you have to find a new doctor, ask if the office is making referrals to other providers. You can also check with your insurance for additional physician referrals in the area. For those relocating, research doctors/specialists in the area and your insurance coverage options. If you do not have insurance, check with local hospitals and medical clinics in the area for charity care assistance programs that can potentially help with medical costs. If you need help with transportation for medical appointments, check with your insurance to see if this is part of your plan’s coverage. Also check with local para-transit services in the area – this service helps individuals living with disabilities for transportation needs.
My doctor is not responding to my messages:
- This unfortunately happens too, and it can be extremely frustrating when it does. Doctors are very busy, true, but there’s a difference between busy and unresponsive and it can be hard to deal with. If a significant amount of time has passed (keep in mind response times can vary based on the office follow up policy and the window they allow for this), but if days/weeks have gone by and you’re not hearing back from the office, you may want to try contacting them again. Take advantage of online patient portals to communicate with the office, too. Sometimes this is an easier form of communication for all sides. If the office is not following up with you after a long period it may be time to consider reaching out to one of your other doctors with your issue. They may be able to reach out to the other doctor on your behalf, or help address your issue directly. You may need to consider changing doctors if you feel your concerns/questions have not been addressed. It’s ok to do this. You have to do what’s in your best interest for your care moving forward.
Asking for a second opinion:
- Clients ask about this often too, and usually with some hesitancy. When/should they get a second opinion about their care? This is absolutely acceptable to do, patients have the right to seek second, even third and fourth opinions about their medical care. Though they’re reluctant to do so sometimes, as many feel as though they’d be betraying their doctor if they do this. Ultimately you have to do what’s right for your medical needs. Getting another opinion is sometimes necessary. If you’re not getting answers or are questioning things regarding your care it can be helpful to receive another viewpoint. It’s also ok to ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist, if needed. Most times your doctor will recommend this if it’s appropriate for you and beyond their scope of practice.
- Talk about frustrating! Wait times to see doctors, particularly specialists, can take months! Even up to more than half the year sometimes. Individuals are not alone when they find this. That doesn’t make it any less infuriating, but it happens and it can vary too depending on location. It’s normal to find long wait times so we suggest whenever possible for clients to get on the office’s cancellation/wait list if an appointment opens up sooner. It’s also reasonable to schedule appointments with several offices to ensure an appointment. Just make sure to cancel one ahead of time as needed if one office is able to get you in sooner than another. Sometimes your doctor can even help get you scheduled to see a specialist if they’re making the referral.
Working with your healthcare team can be challenging. But it can also be rewarding if you find the care that’s most appropriate for you. You deserve to be well taken care of and have the right to make changes to ensure that you are.