How to choose a primary care doctor

for Medicare

Whether you can choose from countless doctors or only a few, you want to select the right health care provider for your needs. Learn how to choose a primary care physician and find a provider who can meet your health care needs effectively.

1. Know Your Medicare Plan

Before you start searching for a primary care physician, make sure you know which Medicare plan you have. Each plan type has important differences in terms of primary care requirements and related costs.

For instance, if you have a Medicare Advantage Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, you must designate a primary care physician who accepts your insurance carrier. If you have Original Medicare plan with a Medicare Supplement, you only need to pick a primary care doctor that accepts Medicare. In this scenario, you don’t need to designate this primary care doctor officially.

No matter what your Medicare plan requires, however, you’ll almost certainly want to select a doctor to provide most of your standard care. You’ll gain peace of mind from knowing that a physician you trust is managing your health care.

2. Find Out If They Accept Assignment

 

Most doctors accept assignment, but not all do. As Medicare.gov explains, this means that your health care provider accepts the amount approved by Medicare as full payment for services covered under your plan.

As a general rule, you’ll pay less out of pocket if you select a doctor who accepts assignment. If you opt for a non-participating physician, you may have to pay for the entire cost of services up front and even submit your own claim to get a reimbursement.

3. See Out A Doctor With The Right Expertise

A primary care physician handles many of your general health and wellness needs. Many are Family Practice or Internal Medicine physicians, which means they treat patients of all ages for a variety of conditions.

Other primary care doctors are Geriatricians, which means they specialize in treating older patients with aging-related needs. Depending on your state of health and the conditions you have, choosing a Geriatrician or another primary care physician with relevant expertise could have a big impact on your health.

4. Understand Their Health Care Approach

If you’ve visited more than one doctor over the course of your life, you know that not all doctors approach health care in the same way. Some emphasize preventive care and wellness, while others address health issues as they arise.

Physicians also make decisions about your health care in a few distinct ways. Some take charge and don’t welcome patients’ input, while others work closely with patients to devise treatment plans. Make sure your physician has an approach that makes you comfortable.

5. Decide If You’re Compatible

Whether you want a doctor with a gentle bedside manner or one who gives it to you straight, you need a provider who you’re compatible with. If you want to feel as though you’re in control of your health, you’ll also want to find a doctor who listens to your concerns and answers your questions thoroughly.

During your first appointment, ask plenty of questions to test out just how comfortable you feel. After one or two visits, you should be able to decide whether you’re compatible with a new doctor.

6. Ask About Office Policies

Some physicians impose long waiting periods for new patients. Once the doctor has accepted you as a patient, however, you should be able to make both routine and last-minute appointments in a reasonable amount of time. Ask the office staff what the norm is for your doctor and decide if that meets your needs.

Many health care providers offer online appointment scheduling, answers to questions by email, and online medical records. If you want easy access to information, seek out a provider with a tech-savvy office policy.

7. Think About Logistics

A great doctor might be worth driving across the city for, but if you make frequent appointments, the extra transit and stress could add up quickly. Ultimately, you’ll most likely strike a balance between a primary care physician you like and a practice that’s convenient.

8. Look For Red Flags

You’ll almost certainly want to cross some doctors off your list of potential primary care physicians. Common red flags include numerous malpractice claims or disciplinary actions.

According to Consumer Reports, a couple of malpractice suits are typical, but you should avoid a doctor who’s had several. To check up on a particular doctor, try searching your state’s medical board to review records and ensure a clean bill of health.

With this advice in hand, you’re on the right track toward finding the ideal primary care provider. Have friends or family members who just can’t seem to find the right Medicare primary doctors? Share this article to make getting great health care easier.