Making medical appointments and learning about health insurance are important steps in becoming a responsible adult. Take the time to learn about what doctor, insurance plan and clinic is best for you so that you not only get all the medical help you need — and are able to afford it.
Prevent Illness Before it Happens
Most young adults have group living situations, such as a dorm or shared apartment. When you live with other people, germs spread easily. To make sure you stay as healthy as possible, get a flu shot every year and be up-to-date on all immunizations.
Make sure you know how to handle a cold. This is an important step in preventive medicine so that you don't take time off school or work because you're sick.
Generally, you should go to the doctor for a physical once a year. During this appointment, your doctor will make sure you are not ill, will give you immunizations, and will treat any existing conditions.
Find a doctor that you like and trust. It's important to establish a good relationship with your doctor so you feel comfortable discussing all your health needs. Go to the same doctor every time, if possible. This way they will know more about your health history and can better help you with future health goals and issues.
Who to Call?
If you have specific health concerns, you'll want to see someone who specializes in that area. You may need a referral from your primary care doctor before seeing a specialist, depending on your insurance. Here is a list of types of doctors that you may want to see.
- Audiologist: Hearing
- Allergist: Allergies
- Andrologist and urologist: Male reproductive system
- Dermatologist: Skin
- ENT Specialist or Otolaryngologist: Ear, nose, and throat
- Family Practitioner: General doctor, physicals
- Gynecologist: Female reproductive system
- Internist: Adult internal disease treatment and prevention, general practitioner
- Psychiatrist: Mental health
Insurance: Be Covered!
Insurance is a big deal. Healthcare is expensive. Insurance will cover a portion of the cost, making healthcare more affordable.
If you're a United States citizen, you're required to have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes it easier to get coverage. ACA provides citizens with more rights and protections, more affordable coverage, better access to care and stronger Medicare.
Special Note About Insurance for College Students
- You may be covered under your parents' insurance. If you live in the U.S., you can stay on your parent's plan until age 26.
- If you are not covered, there are often student health plans available through your school. About 60 percent of U.S. colleges offer student health plans, with lower eligibility than other plans. In most places, you just have to be enrolled as a full-time student. But be careful and make sure you read the policy benefits under your plan. This will help you determine what's covered, so you don't end up with a large medical bill.
- If your school doesn't offer a student health plan and you are uninsured, don't worry! You can go to a health insurance provider and get an individual health plan. Shop for plans that fit your needs.
- If you have a pre-existing condition, you can still get health insurance. Your state may also offer programs (high-risk pools) to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Have your insurance card ready when you go to the doctor or pick up a prescription. Your card will have basic information on it, including the insurance provider, policy number and expiration date. This helps healthcare providers and pharmacies know how much to charge you (or not charge you).
Knowing your policy benefits can make a huge difference, especially if you're involved in a medical emergency. Before getting insurance, you will find out what and how much your insurance covers. You can often find this information on your insurance provider's website.
Also, stay updated! Make sure you're aware of changes in your insurance benefits. Under ACA, insurance is required to cover:
- Ambulatory patient services.
- Chronic disease management.
- Emergency services.
- Maternity and newborn care.
- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.
- Prescription drugs.
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.
- Laboratory services.
- Preventive and wellness services.
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
Where to Start
Find a doctor you can go to regularly for your check-ups and illnesses. Having one physician who knows your health history ensures you get the best care.
If your college has an on-site clinic, that may be a good place to start. If this isn't an option for you, look into nearby clinics or private family care physicians. Be careful to check what insurance plans they accept. This is important because healthcare can be expensive. It's easy to call the clinic receptionist and your insurance company to get everything sorted out before you arrive.
If you don't like the first doctor you see, try to find another one. Having a doctor you don't care for and don't trust is never helpful. Plus, there are plenty of great doctors!
If you are over 18 and go to the doctor, you don't need to worry about anyone contacting your parents. If you are under the age of 18, most of your healthcare appointments need to be in the company of an adult, but issues regarding sexual or reproductive health, substance abuse, or mental health can be cared for without parental consent. Confidentiality laws protect your rights, so you can feel comfortable talking openly with your healthcare provider.
Confidentiality laws state that a doctor cannot tell their patients' parents anything discussed unless given permission. These laws help give you the best healthcare possible. It's helpful to your doctor and other healthcare providers if you're honest because it will allow them to better identify the source of your illness.
Even though your doctor has to follow confidentiality laws, you need to consider your insurance plan. Many times, young adults are under their parents' insurance into their mid-twenties, and unfortunately there are no confidentiality agreements with insurance plans.
If you're meeting with a doctor about a service you don't want your parents to learn about, ask the doctor whether a labeled fee will show up on your parents' insurance statement. Another great resource is community clinics such as Planned Parenthood, but be careful to ask about their confidentiality practices.
Reviewed by: Sharanjit Dosanjh, R.N
Last Reviewed: October 2019