Letter to the Editor: Post-Grad Health Priorities

Sep 24, 2019 by

They say college can be the best time of your life. Whoever ‘they’ are is right: I’m loving college, and I never want to leave.

Sadly, I’m graduating soon, and that means I’ll have to graduate from the “MTV Real World” to the actual one. I can admit, it’s a little scary, but I know I’m lucky enough to have been given the tools anyone needs for success in society, like getting a job and paying rent.

While we’re being vulnerable, another thing that I’m not afraid to admit, but am a little scared about, is my health.  Don’t get me wrong: college keeps me active, and I try hard to stick to light beer. But what sticks with me most are the memories and images I have of loved ones who lost control of their wellness.  One thing they all attest to – those few I am lucky enough to still be with here – is how a little commitment and organized focus could have helped their health in the long-run. 

The honesty continues – I am not great with keeping track of much or staying functionally organized.  Even more concerning, as sure as I may feel ready for what’s after college, I’m definitely unsure of how to navigate our nation’s healthcare system, signing up for insurance, making doctor’s appointments…the list goes on and on. How often should I go to the doctor, and when should I go to the hospital? What should I know about health insurance, and when should I start to worry? Experts, please help!

  • Young and Healthy…For Now

There’s nothing unusual about feeling a little intimidated by the healthcare system, especially if it’s your first time seeking coverage or care on your own. After all, the confusing and, indisputably, sometimes inefficient system is a major source of policy debates and dinner table fights across America. 

One reason for all of the debating and, indisputably, sometimes shouting is because there is a lot to know and remember about American healthcare, but don’t worry: With a little dedication, like maintaining your health, ensuring your insured and staying well will become something you won’t have to think about every day with the right commitments. 

Let’s start with the 30,000-foot view – a look at the healthcare system broadly.  

The first thing you need to know is how important it will be to prioritize health insurance. With the continuously increasing cost of care in the U.S., health insurance will help cover things, like your annual appointment checkup, but doctors and policy makers alike agree that’s not the only reason. 

As a healthy young person, you may not think about it too often, but bad luck can strike anywhere, any time, and any one can become very sick suddenly or seriously injured in the blink of an eye — and, in today’s health care reality, that inevitably means sky-high medical bills. Without health insurance, that could cripple your finances.

If you’re lucky, you may receive full or partial health coverage through your job.  While it is a luxury and not always the case, it is not uncommon for employers to offer this benefit because the U.S. is built around an employer-sponsored health insurance system. If you aren’t able to receive health care insurance from work or may be an independent contractor, individual plan options are available in the healthcare exchange.

Once you have your health insurance, it’s time to find a primary care provider (PCP). Plans may assign a PCP, but, remember, these options are able to be changed, and a lot of times, able to be changed to your preference. 

You’ll need to see your PCP at least once a year, or, of course, return more often, if you are advised to do so by a medical professional. Talk to your doctor about any health symptoms or issues you may be experiencing, and don’t hesitate to call them if something really feels off. 

If your intuition proves right, and you need to see a specialist, your doctor will help you get a referral, which may be necessary for insurance coverage.  If you’ve selected a legitimate plan and company, specific questions about your individual coverage can usually be easily answered by your insurance provider. 

But what if you’re injured or sick and need care quickly? In a dire situation, you should call an ambulance or head to the emergency room by other means. But that won’t always be an option based on your location or even financially. 

If you just have the flu, going to the emergency room may prove wasteful, both of your money and of other healthcare resources. The more economical option, should you need care fast and your PCP be unable to see you in an appropriate and necessary amount of time, look for an urgent care center.

Urgent care services exist because there are plenty of health situations falling between long-term issues best handled by a PCP and horrific injuries most appropriately treated in an emergency room. An urgent care center can help you with everything from a flu shot, to responsive care for sudden illness or injury, and you can even sometimes get a checkup or physical exam at some facilities. 

Since nothing is easy, you should know there are also urgent care centers blurring the line between PCP offices and emergency health centers offering PCP services. Save your wallet the hassle of parting with that much cash, and talk with your insurance provider to find out where your best options may be for care in your area. 

That said, regular checkups and PCPs are just one piece to this healthy pie.  

For example, for certain types of care, like dental and vision, according to eye doctors in Monroe Township, NJ, you’ll be referred to a specialist.  These leading doctors from the Garden State further urge everyone, if needed, to visit an eye doctor regularly and check your specs – also a good idea, if you already wear corrective lenses and may be in need of a prescription update. 

It’s further sometimes okay to go to an optician, who are not doctors, which is why regular appointments remain important for more thorough examinations and monitoring for any number of degenerative problems, such as glaucoma.

Summer may be gone, so don’t let one bad fall teach you the lesson the hard way: take charge of your health and life, and enroll in coverage today. 

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