Thursday, February 2, 2012

Health Care in New York City

After being ill for most of the week (woe is me ;-) I thought it would be fitting to write about my experiences of New York health care.

In the US there is no NHS or state health service, almost everything operates on the assumption that you have decent insurance which will cover any medical costs you incur.  If you don't have insurance you will have to pay for every doctors appointment, check-up, prescription, hospital visit, etc out of your own pocket.  They charge for absolutely every test they give you, even something as simple as weighing you and taking your blood pressure.  It is vital that when you locate to or visit the US you have medical cover otherwise you could be charged a small fortune.

Once you have medical insurance it can be quite confusing finding out how everything works.  You will be issued with an insurance card which you should carry with you in case of an energy.  Printed on the card will be the contact information of your provider.  I found the best place to start was by visiting their website and finding out exactly what I was entitled to and what was covered.

The next step is finding yourself a GP, or Primary Care Physician (PCP) as they call them here.  Again, the website is probably the best place to start.  They will have a list of all of the doctors available to you with your insurance.  You can also call your provider directly and ask them to find you a PCP in your area.  Some companies will make you choose just one PCP, whereas others will let you visit any doctor on the list.  If you end up with a doctor you don't like, call your insurance company and ask them to switch you to someone else.

When receiving medical care you may be charged a 'deductible' or 'co-pay' which is an amount you are responsible for paying at the time of receiving treatment.  For example, you may be charged $20 each time you visit the doctor.  These amounts should also be printed on your card.

I found it very frustrating when I first went to the doctor here.  I was kept waiting for an hour, the reception staff and nurses were extremely rude and unhelpful and they carried out a number of completely unnecessary tests.  Needless to say I won't be going back there again!  One good thing about the system here is that it is a competitive business, so if you don't like the service you receive you can go somewhere else.

When filling a prescription it works very similarly to the UK, you go to a pharmacist and then pick up your medication.  Be prepared that you may have pay a 'co-pay' for certain medications.  Also, even though your doctor may give you a six month prescription, the pharmacy won't give it to all at once making you go back each month, which is really annoying!

Like anything else, it's it difficult getting used to a new system, especially one so vital.  I am slowly but surely learning how the health system works over here and hopefully be able to pass on any good tips I find along the way!

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