Are you tongue-tied when asked about your health insurance coverage?  You’re not alone. Health insurance plans are confusing for everyone!  I will do my best to help Boxers get started on this often rocky journey through health care:

Have your health insurance card:

Or have a copy of your card—both sides—with you whenever you make any appointment, go to the pharmacy, or go for blood tests or x-rays.  While providers may not know the specifics of your insurance plan, your insurance card will help the provider guide you. Without your insurance card information readily available, you could end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars because you went to a facility that isn’t covered by your insurance plan.  It’s kind of like trying to bill Macy’s with a Nordstrom credit card—it’s not going to work!

Specify clearly to the receptionist the reason for your appointment:

Don’t piggyback additional problems when you arrive. We need to know how much time your problem will take.  It’s hard for a clinic to keep on schedule if you come for a 15 minute sore throat appointment, but then ask for medication refills for other health problems, and also want an evaluation for a two-month old-rash. Request additional time beforehand, or make separate appointments for other problems that arise.

Always arrive to your appointment at least 10 minutes early:

There will almost always be some sort of paperwork to complete, especially if you are a new patient.  After you complete that paperwork, the provider often needs to review it, before you are seen. Patients are frequently told to arrive early, but don’t.  It puts the clinic about 10 minutes behind per patient!  If you’re going to be late, or can’t arrive on time, call the Receptionist.  We want to find a way to accommodate your needs & take care of you.

Speak directly with the insurance company or the local insurance agent when you have questions about coverage:

Your provider will not know, for example, how much your insurance pays for your medications or immunizations. There are hundreds of health insurance companies with varying degrees of coverage.  It’s impossible for a provider to know the specifics of every patient’s insurance plan.  You are expected to know how to access information on your own coverage. You will most likely find a phone number on the back of your cardto access your plan. Talk to your insurance plan when you have questions about coverage—my insurance company representative is on speed dial! Oh, and don’t be surprised if you’re put on hold!

Kerry Pioske is an Adult Nurse Practictioner at the Pacific University Student Health Center.

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