How to choose your own physician?

Everyone has their own philosophy when it comes to choosing a physician.

For primary care, you need a responsive staff from the office, no matter how brilliant your primary care physician is. The utmost important thing about a primary care office is how responsive they are to the calls because you are going to call them a lot for basic stuff – physical exam form, lab test results, prescription refill, triage your symptoms at night. This usually relates to how the practice is managed, but less pertains to the capabilities of physicians who work there.

Secondly, you need some continuity in your care – do you want to see a different provider every time you go there and repeat again and again your own story? No one writes such a detailed note for the visit so all the information retains. Considering finding some physician who is not close to their retirement age so you can build a long-term relationship instead of being handed over to someone else in a short period. In addition, make copies of your medical records every a few years – some clinic purge records according to the statue limitations, which means once it is out of the legalized time period of keeping the medical records, “poof”, they are out of the window.

Thirdly, bedside manner vs. technical excellence vs. conscientiousness vs. experiences. This is really the field that everyone has a different taste for.

 

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Healthcare for immigrant parents

When your parents come to the United States, what should you think about regarding their healthcare?

If they come here for a short-term visit, like a six-month stay, a short-term healthcare insurance for visitors could be your choice, but those usually don’t cover for existing conditions. If your parents have chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, etc, they may need medications and maybe some visit to the clinic or emergency room.

US healthcare insurance is largely based on employment and due to parents’ immigrant status (B1/2 visitor visa), there are very limited choices for healthcare insurance. A few options are as belows, but I suspect better knowledge is with local healthcare brokers.

-some employment-based healthcare insurances allow you to add parents as dependents, such as VA or Tricare

-some supplemental healthcare insurance offers some cost deduction by providing low out-of-pocket costs

-some visitor healthcare insurances offer choices for acute onset of pre-existing conditions

So what if an emergency happens and parents are not insured or under-insured?

-emergency rooms, according to law, all the ERs in the US have to accept patients no matter what, so they will be seen in the ER but you are going to expect to receive some bills with large numbers. Well, you can negotiate with their billing department later but it is always not pleasant to receive a bill that may make you broke. But if there is really any life emergencies, don’t hesitate to bring your parents to ER.

-free clinics or fee-scaled community health centers, usually different states and cities have some free clinics run by government or charity groups but they usually open on 9-to-5 regular hours. If they need hospitalization, the social workers at a hospital will help you apply for emergent Medicaid (depends on states), which will cover the costs of in-patient stay.

-private cash-only clinics, you can find some private clinics in lower Manhattan/Chinatown or Flushing, NY that accept cash for visits.

-call your own primary care physician and see if he/she can fit your parents into a schedule and charge a reasonable fee based on cash or fee-scale.

-some cash-based telemedicine services

How about medications?

They can bring enough medications to the United States for the duration of stay.

Or

-some pharmacies provide low-cost common medications like CVS, Target, Walmart’s low-cost Rx program

-use GoodRx for wholesale prices for medications

-ship medications from home from mail but sometimes the Customs may be scrutinous about that since there are regulations to prevent smuggling cheaper medications to the US

If you have any experience exploring the US healthcare system with immigrant parents, share it in the comments section!