The changing demographics of the older American population and the recent strides made toward reforming healthcare have combined in a way that profoundly impacts the world of geriatric medicine.
The number of geriatric physicians that are currently matriculating in our medical schools is steadily declining while the senior population continues to grow.
The introduction of the Affordable Care Act will be adding somewhere around 30 million new “insureds” into the healthcare system in the next year, and as our population expands—we expect to see the number of adults in the US who are over 65 double by 2030— that number will only continue to rise.
We’re already seeing some strain on the system as the number of geriatric specialists continues to dwindle, but within the next 2 decades, the demand for senior healthcare will far outstrip the number of clinicians available to provide care.
So, finding a good doctor now may be one of the best steps you can take toward a healthy future.
1. Familiarize yourself with your healthcare plan.
Know what Medicare and any other additional, private insurance you have will cover.
The benefits and premiums for Medicare can change from year to year—with upcoming reforms announced every September—so older adults are able to make changes to existing Medicare Plans or enroll in new programs at different times throughout the year:
- October 15-December 7. Open enrollment. You can opt into Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or choose a Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription coverage (Part D) plan.
- January 1-February 17. Individual health and hospital coverage (parts A and B, respectively). offer general enrollment. This means you can opt out of Part C, but not into an Advantage plan.
The next time you go over your health coverage, make sure you have a plan that will cover your needs now and in the future. Your healthcare plan should be able to:
- Cover all kinds of medical care. From trips to the doctor’s office and hospitalization to prescription drugs, medical tests, and rehabilitation services.
- Limit your out-of-pocket. The best insurance should pick up the tab for of your medical expenses without an exorbitant deductible or co-pay—$5,000 to $10,000 a year is about the average out-of-pocket expense for senior healthcare.
If you want to get the best care, you must make sure that you have a healthcare plan that can help you pay for it.
2. Get to know your doctor.
If you’re going to be putting your health in the hands of a clinician, you want to be comfortable with them and know that they can be trusted to provide you with the care you may need.
- Check out a physician’s credentials.
You don’t need to see a doctor who graduated first in her class from the Harvard Medical School, but you do want to make sure that your physician has the credentials to back up her practice.
According to Reader’s Digest, when doctors are looking for a GP, they want to know more about who a physician trained with than where they went to school. The doctors your family physician trained with during residency will have a greater effect on their competency and clinical style than their alma mater.
- Build a relationship.
When you’re looking for a good doctor you need to find a physician that balances skills with personality. You’ll never get the healthcare you need if you avoid seeing your doctor because you don’t like how you’re treated at the office.
From reception to exam, you need to find a senior care provider that has the know how to keep you healthy while still being friendly and professional.
- Know your network.
These days, it’s more than likely that the doctor you choose as your primary care physician will be part of a healthcare network. This means that, except in very special cases, you will be referred to hospitals and other doctors within that system.
Do your homework on the facilities and specialists you may be referred to for procedures.