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How to Choose a Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Many Medicare recipients choose health maintenance organizations (HMOs) for their health insurance. About 63 of Medicare Advantage recipients have HMO plans, as do many people with Original Medicare.

One key component of an HMO is the primary care physician (PCP). This is the person who will coordinate all of your medical care. You will be required to choose a primary care physician when you sign up for your insurance. This is an important decision, so carefully consider your options.

Do you already have a doctor that you’d like to continue to use? If so, make sure that this person is in the network for any health insurance plans you might be considering. If you don’t have someone you prefer, how can you find a doctor you like? We suggests using these guidelines to narrow your search.

Find an Office

You don’t want to drive far to see a doctor, especially if you aren’t feeling well. Make a list of doctors’ offices that are close to your home. Are they convenient? Are they open on weekends? Look at their office hours to make sure they are available when you are. Call a few of the places that fit your needs, and ask if they’re taking new patients. If they are, see how soon you can get an appointment. You don’t want to have to wait several weeks to see your doctor, so lack of availability is a warning sign that you may want to choose a different office.

One of the best ways to find an office and/or PCP is by asking your friends and neighbors. Many people are eager to share both positive experiences and horror stories about local doctors. You can also look at ratings websites or online community forums for suggestions.

Consider Your Needs

You may be tempted to just pick a name out of a hat and go with it, but this is one of the most important health care decisions you’ll make, particularly if you fall ill. All of your health care will be arranged and directed through your primary care physician, and you’ll need to see that person if you want referrals to specialists or anything out of the ordinary.

Once you’ve found one or two offices that meet your needs, consider the type of person you feel most comfortable with. Do you want someone fresh out of medical school? Would you prefer an older doctor? A younger doctor may be more in touch with the latest treatments, but an older doctor has more experience in the field. Do you have a gender preference? You will likely be discussing intimate issues with your doctor, so you want to feel comfortable with him or her.

Interview Two or Three PCPs

It may seem like overkill, but sometimes the people who look best on paper end up being the worst in person. Before you speak to a potential PCP, think about the issues that are important to you. Perhaps you have some particular health concerns. Maybe you are a fan of one kind of diet, or a certain type of exercise. Ask the doctor what his or her thoughts are on these subjects. Does he or she keep an open mind? Does the doctor spend more time talking, or listening? Is this a person that you would trust, essentially, with your life? Your primary care physician should be someone that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Don’t settle for anything less.

The best part? We’ll help you find the Medicare plan that includes the doctor you want to use!


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