Finding the Right Healthcare Provider as a First Responder
Date:Thursday November 11, 2021
First responders handle medical and health-related challenges on a daily basis – it’s often a key component of the work itself! However, it’s easy to downplay one’s own need for medical attention, especially because preventative medicine can seem less urgent than emergency needs.
That being said, it is incredibly important to have access to healthcare providers as a first responder yourself! Here are the four steps we recommend when choosing a healthcare provider.
Start With Your Insurance Website or Phone Line
Every insurance company is a little different, and as a first responder, you still have to navigate the challenges of finding the right affordable care, even though you are working daily with healthcare in many cases. A great place to start is to open up the documents provided to you by your employer or your insurance provider about what is covered by your plan. Look for a general practitioner who can serve as your primary care provider. Depending on the complexity of your healthcare needs, you may have more success calling the insurance provider directly, but don’t let that deter you from starting this process!
Get Recommendations From Colleagues for Trauma-Informed Care
Some doctors can speak directly to working with first responders, either because of their past patients or because of their own work in first responder fields. Others just don’t know much about patients who have physically and psychologically demanding jobs. One way to narrow down your search is to talk to others at work about physicians with whom fellow first responders have had a good experience.
Talking to a leadership team member or an HR representative can also help you find out if there have been particular healthcare providers who have worked well with members of your first responder team. This is a worthwhile step because having a healthcare provider who really understands your work can help you to get more tailored medical attention and advice. Even something simple, like a healthcare provider who has worked as a first responder as part of their career path, can really make a difference.
Make the Time To Take Advantage of Preventative Options
Once you’ve chosen a healthcare provider, the next step is just as important: follow up and actually make the preventative medicine appointments! Whether it is getting a yearly eye exam, a physical, or addressing a persistent source of pain in your body, many healthcare plans have appointments that are fully covered and help you catch medical issues before they become unmanageably challenging.
While being tough is certainly part of life as a first responder, being strong also requires periodically addressing any sources of strain, pain, or discomfort. Staying strong through a long and successful first responder career means getting into the habit as early as possible of visiting your healthcare provider so that they can establish a baseline in case of a change down the road.
Be Willing To Revisit Your Care, Especially With New Needs
If you aren’t getting the answers and help you need, most healthcare plans will allow for you to switch providers and receive care from someone different. You’ve seen first-hand how important and life-changing the right medical care can be, especially in your first responder work. Be a great example to your coworkers and the people you help by being willing to advocate for yourself when you need a second opinion or the advice of a specialist.
Understanding How to Use Health Insurance: the jargon around health insurance is intense! Here’s a quick summary of some of the terms you’ll see in your health insurance as you get started.
New Jersey’s Deborah Heart and Lung Center has formed a partnership that helps them treat first responders well and in a way that truly verifies that you are fit for duty. This website can offer a blueprint for some of the questions to ask a healthcare provider, like “do you all work specifically with the occupational risk factors of first responders?” or “Can you do a first responder specific health assessment?”
Healthcare.gov Glossary: Even if you’re not using a marketplace plan, the Healthcare.gov glossary offers a lot of helpful terms you might run into while looking for and choosing a healthcare provider.