See a doctor in the United States

Published on:2011-12-03

In the United States, before seeing a doctor you must first choose a family doctor (primary doctor). You also must make an appointment to see a doctor. If for some reason you cannot go, you should call at least 24 hours in advance to cancel the appointment or reschedule. Some doctors will charge a fee if you miss an appointment.(Usually doctors who charge fees will have you sign an agreement during your first visit). You are required to carry an identification card and a medical insurance card. If you don't go to one of the clinics affiliated with the medical school of your university, you should carry your credit card or cash equivalent to the amount of copay when you see a doctor (Chinese Translation: 挂号费).

The most pleasant thing about seeing a doctor in the United States is that, no matter who you are, you often encounter a smile. Both doctors and nurses are amiable, make you feel at home. However, the appointment wait time is very long, and most medical insurance requires your family doctor to refer you to a specialist. The family doctor often asks you to first see him, and only refers you to a specialist if he cannot treat you, although, in cases of serious illness, you can see a doctor the same day. If your illness does not look serious, waiting three to five weeks before you finally see a specialist is often a common thing. Besides, U.S. doctors rarely have a concept of whole body health. There is no connection among each specialty. Often, if you have a headache, they treat your head; you feel pain in your feet, they treat your feet. So be sure to choose an experienced and responsible family doctor. Do not think you are strong and won't get sick. If you don't have a good family doctor at hand, and you fall seriously ill, your family doctor's judgment could be wrong and he or she could refer you to the wrong specialist, causing severe delay in treatment. Fair to say, when the condition is indeed very serious, the overall quality level of the doctors and the hospitals in the United States is still far better than that in China. However, the US health care system generally delays treatment in the early stage of disease development. So if possible, try to learn a little bit of basic medical knowledge, as well as the Chinese theory of self-cultivation.

U.S. insurance has two systems: in-network and out-of-network. The money an individual needs to pay is not the same for these two systems. Hence, you should try to see an in-network doctor. If, for some special circumstance of the disease, you must choose an out-of-network doctor, you can negotiate the price with the out-of-network doctor. Before any procedure, be sure to check whether it is fully covered by your insurance and whether your insurance requires pre-approval before the procedure. Besides, you should also carefully check medical bills and insurance letters. If you have any question about your insurance or medical bills, call the hospital or the insurance company over and over again to ask every question. Do not pay it by just following your bill notice without careful inspection of each item of charge, because it is common to have errors in the codes that hospitals report to the insurance company for reimbursement.

Dental care in the U.S. is very expensive. Even with the best dental insurance, you still need to pay some money to install crowns or implants. If a medical situation existed before you join the current insurance (pre-existing condition), your insurance won't cover crowns or dental implants, and dental insurance usually has a spending limit. Suffice it to say that if dental insurance is a student policy, the benefit usually won't be good.