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Do your health care homework for best coverage

In our senior years, many of us will find it necessary to make changes in our health care for a variety of reasons.

When Medicare becomes our primary care, chances are that the coverage we had up to that point will no longer work for us. We will need a supplemental plan. Since some health care plans are available only within the state in which we live, relocating may require a change to a different plan. As always, the cost is also a factor.

How can we get the best coverage for our health care dollar? Do your homework! Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. Find out about co-pays, availability of care for both emergency and routine care and the length of time it will take to see your primary care physician.

The most economical plans are usually the Medicare Advantage Plans (HMOs). They are available with zero premium. Of course, you will be limited to the doctors, hospitals and other facilities within the plan’s network. You may choose your physician from the list provided and are entitled to change to another if you wish. I have heard many horror stories about the length of time it takes to receive care for serious illnesses, but my own experience with my recent brain procedure was handled in a timely manner with top-notch specialists. As a Medicare Advantage Plan member, I have no complaints.

If an HMO is not your cup of tea and you are willing to pay the premium, your choices are much greater. Compare your freedom of physician selection, cost of premium, co-pays required and waiting time for care and whatever else is important to you, and you are ready to make your decision.

Once you have made your choice, the next step is to select a physician. Again, ask the people you know for recommendations, and then decide which attributes you are seeking in a health care provider. No one doctor will possess all the qualities you want, so you need to decide which ones are the most important to you. Even though you are entitled to change doctors if you wish, it’s never easy to do so. I like to establish a comfortable relationship with my doctor so that I can feel free to discuss my concerns with him.

Communication between doctor and patient is essential. It is important to most of us that the doctor listens to our concerns and addresses them. We like to feel that the doctor cares about our well-being. Some doctors tend to make on-the-spot diagnoses, based on age and/or history, without examining all the facts. I am always suspect of this practice.

How easy or difficult is it to understand your physician? Is he soft-spoken or does he have an accent you have trouble with? If you have any hearing loss, this could be a major concern. Sometimes it’s just too embarrassing to keep asking him to repeat what was said. This is too important to ignore.

How accessible is the doctor you are considering? If it is like getting into Fort Knox to get in touch with the doctor, then I would consider another choice.

Choosing your health care is a major decision. When you are in good health, you tend not to take it too seriously. I know I felt that way until I hit a huge bump in the road when my brain aneurysm was discovered. I am so grateful that I had adequate health care coverage to afford me the best of medical treatment without putting me into bankruptcy.

If you read last month’s column, I would like to update it by saying that I believe I have turned the corner in terms of my recovery. I feel that my energy is gradually returning. I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I practiced what I preach.

Marie McDonald teaches aquatic fitness and swimming technique at the northwest-area Las Vegas Athletic Club. Her book, “Your Personal Best: A Common Sense Guide to Fitness for all Ages,” is available on amazon.com and at the Clark County Library. Contact her at aqua.fit@hotmail.com.

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