Joyce Minor

Doctors and insurance get complex

How do you find a doctor? It sounds like an easy question, but these days you can’t just pick one from the yellow pages. Never mind that most people don’t even have a telephone directory anymore. Finding anything that way, or that simply, just isn’t done.

These days, to choose a doctor you need some guidance or maybe a recommendation and even that can get really complicated.

Of primary importance is finding a doctor you can trust, so your first inclination may be to ask family and friends. Not a bad place to start, right? Wrong. Asking three people will get you three different answers for three very different reasons, which your friends may or may not share.

So how do you sort out which doctor is truly best for you? Probably you have certain criteria you’d prefer for personal reasons. For instance, I like to know whether the doctor is male or female. I get nervous if the doctor’s name isn’t even a clue. I mean, Taylor Morgan could just as easily be Morgan Taylor, and I still can’t tell what I’m getting till he/she walks into the exam room (too late to retreat with my hospital gown flapping behind).

You may feel most comfortable with a doctor who has been in practice for many years. Or perhaps you prefer a recent grad thinking he/she is more likely to be familiar with the latest medical advances. Perhaps your concern is simply that you don’t hear well so you need a doctor who speaks English without an accent. Those are all legitimate concerns.

These days it’s also important to make sure you find a doctor who accepts your particular insurance plan. Most health insurance companies will give you a printed directory of physicians, and I can almost guarantee you the three doctors your friends recommended will not be on that list. But don’t let that bother you. The directory, even though it has more pages than the latest version of Obamacare, was almost certainly outdated before it rolled off the presses. That’s because insurance companies change the list of doctors with whom they cooperate almost as often as doctors change the pile of forms new patients must fill out.

Most health insurance companies also offer online physician directories on their web sites. Granted, some of them are about as electronically intuitive as a mud fence, but that’s because they were last updated about the time mud fences were popular.

If you need to see a specialist, it may be difficult to find a friend who has had the same need and can tell you from experience which doctor to call. In addition, if your medical problem is at all sensitive, you may be reluctant to share, even with a relative, the details necessary for making a recommendation. For instance, if Uncle Charlie’s dog bit you on the butt and you now have an infected wound, you should probably think twice before asking good old Charlie to recommend an infectious disease specialist.

If all of this sounds a bit pessimistic it’s only because I’ve just been through the delightful process of switching health insurance plans, as well as trying to locate a specialist who not only takes my insurance but also has an office less than a hundred miles away.

Oh, and add to that the fact that my great new insurance doesn’t kick in for a month yet. So for that one month, the premium on my current plan has gone up almost a hundred dollars. Why not gouge out all they can while the gouging’s good, right?