By: Dr. Jann Caison-Sorey, senior medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Being a parent is a full-time job. Beyond the daily routine of getting the kids to and from school, there’s soccer practice, book reports, birthday parties and everything in between. You’re constantly on the run – driving, working, cooking, cleaning, teaching, reading – doing everything you can to be a good parent and to raise your kids to be healthy and happy.
But in the day-to-day juggling act of parenting, sometimes the most important things can slip your mind. When is the last time your child went to the doctor? Not for an injury or illness, but for a general checkup or physical? Visiting the doctor when your child is healthy is referred to as a “well-child visit” or “well visit” and is an extremely important aspect of preventive care.
Preventive services are designed to avoid and detect potential health issues. Examples of preventive care services include annual well-child visits, sports physicals, immunizations and flu shots. Immunizations and flu shots can stop illnesses before they have a chance to start. One trip to the doctor can help prevent many more potential health concerns down the road. Health screenings and wellness exams are crucial to discovering problems. Finding them earlier before they have a chance to get worse means they can be easier and more cost effective to treat.
The best thing about preventive services? They’re often free. Don’t worry about having to pay, as long as the doctor is in your health insurance plan’s network and the visit is just about preventive care. You may have to pay if:
- Your doctor is out of your insurance plan’s network for health care. Why? Doctors who are in your health plan network will give you a discount based on your insurer’s negotiated rate with the doctor. Doctors who are not in your health plan network do not have the same discount, so the insured is responsible for any additional cost difference.
- Your child receives other services during the same visit that are not preventive, or if the services are used to treat, diagnose or monitor an illness, injury or health problem.
It’s important to know what’s covered by your insurance before going into your appointment. Many insurers, like Blue Cross, have this information easily accessible online. Understanding your health plan ensures there are no surprises in what you’ll owe at the end of your visit.
Visiting a new doctor can be a little scary, for both a parent and a child, but it doesn’t have to be. Preparing ahead of time can assure the first visit is as easy and stress-free as possible.
What can you expect?
During the exam, the doctor may check your child’s blood pressure, vision, hearing, weight, eating habits and allergies or past medical problems, if any. The doctor may talk about the risks of smoking, drug abuse and other social/emotional behaviors, depending on the child’s age.
What should you bring?
When it’s time to see a doctor, there are a few things to bring:
- Any current/active insurance cards for current coverage
- Bring the current medications your child is taking, including over-the-counter medicines and vitamins
- A list of any questions you have for your child’s doctor
How do you get the most out of your visit?
A checkup/physical or sports exam is a great time to ask questions. Worried about problems at home or school? Does your child sleep too much or too little? Snack too much? Well-child visits are a great time to ask any questions you may have about your child’s development or overall health.
Be actively involved during the visit. If the doctor orders a test, ask why. If your child takes or needs medicine, know the medicine’s name, dose, frequency and use. Check with the doctor to ensure your child is current on his or her immunizations. At the end of your visit, ask when to schedule the next checkup. Ask for written instruction if needed.
Too many people make the mistake of only using insurance for an existing illness or injury. Keep your children healthy by taking advantage of the free preventive services that your plan offers.
Dr. Jann Caison-Sorey is a pediatrician, adolescent medicine physician and senior medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health insurance tips visit bcbsm.com/101 or follow the hashtag #Covered101 on our social channels. If you have a specific question, please submit your query online through our Customer Action Center.
Photo Credit: Brett Farmiloe