Fellow soon-to-be-graduates, it’s really happening. We will soon be leaving Barnard and entering the weird, wild world of figuring out healthcare as graduates. To calm my own self down and try to spread some knowledge, I recently met with Barnard’s Executive Director for Student Health and Wellness, MJ Murphy.
She outlined four basic areas to be aware of for this transition:
- Health insurance
- Medical records
- Following up on existing conditions
That sounds like a lot, but deep breaths! Let’s take it step by step (and not worry about dealing with these all in one day or figuring it all out right away, as my perfectionist streak would like).
1) Oh, health insurance. Just putting it out there that this stuff is CONFUSING, so do not feel bad if it doesn’t make any sense! First, find out what kind of plan you have right now if you don’t already know. If you’re covered under Barnard’s Aetna Student Health Plan insurance, your coverage will last until August 21, 2014. If you’re on your parents’ insurance, you can stay on until you’re 26, but something to be aware of is that if you are hired with a health insurance benefits package, you have to take that insurance instead. One additional complication to look into with staying on a family plan are possible geographic restrictions on using the insurance. If you are covered by parents’ insurance but it is an HMO and they are living in a different state, you should not stay on that plan since HMOs are state restricted. So if you are living and working in a different state than your parents and they have HMO insurance, then you would need to get a plan recognized in the state you are working and living in. This is especially true if you move across country since most HMOs are not recognized on the other coast.
If you get a job but that job does not offer health insurance benefits, you can either go to the federal health exchange (www.healthcare.gov) or to the state website if you are going to be living and working in one of the 16 states which offer their own health insurance exchange (for example, NY, CA, MA, WA and OR are all states which have their own exchange). Healthcare.gov can tell you which states offer their own exchanges. If you have a job which offers health care benefits and then you decide to leave, your employer has to offer you COBRA coverage, which means that you can pay for the insurance benefits that the employer pays for as an employee and your former employer would have to offer this for 18 months after you leave your job.
Confused as all get out about what the benefits package for your new adult-feeling job means, or what your best bet for staying covered after college in the job hunt will be? Feel free to stop by the Well-Woman office or Primary Care to pick up a free copy of the (unfortunately named, since you need not feel foolish if you don’t know this stuff) Health Care Benefits for Dummies book. The Well-Woman office is also there with cozy couches and wonderful people to listen to you if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
2) As for your medical records, you don’t need the full copy, but it’s wise to pick up a record of your last physical (so you can recall how long it’s been since your last exam, and keep note of your vital signs like blood pressure from that time) as well as a record of all your immunizations and a list of all current medications.
3) If you are on any medications, make sure to check in with a Primary Care provider. Some medications, such as contraception, can be dispensed in advance through the August supply.
4) If you’ve been sent to a specialist for any condition, try to tie up loose ends by scheduling a last appointment if need be.
Lastly, as for finding new doctors, word of mouth can be a great way. If you are staying in the New York City area, Primary Care can provide you with a list of recommended providers (mainly general practitioners and OB/GYN specialists). In terms of looking forward to preventive care, it’s still a great idea to go in for a yearly physical, which should be free under all insurance.
We can figure this whole full-fledged adult thing out, one step at a time. Wishing you wellness as we move into this next phase of life!