What is a Primary Care Physician?
A primary care physician (or primary care doctor) is a doctor who sees people that have common medical problems. He or she is often the first health care professional you call when you have a question or need. This is the doctor who can handle a variety of medical problems, provide preventive care and advice, and maintain your medical history. They can refer you to other doctors who specialize in different health care areas when you need them.
Finding a Primary Care Physician
Finding a primary care doctor in Vermont can be hard. There aren’t enough primary care doctors in Vermont. When you do find one, you may have to wait several months for your first appointment.
Here are some tips for finding a doctor.
If You Have Medicaid
Call Medicaid (1-800-250-8427) and tell them that you are looking for a primary care doctor in your area who is taking new patients. Medicaid should be able to give you the names of a few doctors and their contact information.
You can also find a list of Medicaid doctors online. In the search tool, where it says “city,” type in your town or a nearby town. In the search tool, where it says “specialty,” choose “general practice” or “family practice.”
Remember that the Medicaid website is not always up-to-date. When you call a doctor’s office, you should double check that they accept Vermont Medicaid and are accepting new patients.
If You Have Private Insurance
- Look at your plan contract to read about their in-network and out-of-network policies. For example, some insurance plans don’t cover out-of-network doctors, or will cover their services, but not the full cost. This is important to know so that you don’t get stuck with a surprise bill.
- Call the insurance company (or check their website) for a list of in-network primary care doctors in your area.
Getting an Appointment
If a doctor’s office does not have an appointment available as soon as you need one, you should consider making an appointment anyway and asking to be put on their cancellation list. If another patient cancels an appointment, your doctor’s office might offer you an earlier appointment.
Many doctors’ offices now ask for a copy of your medical records before they will agree to make an appointment for you. Be prepared by either having a paper copy of your medical records or by offering to sign a release so that your old doctor can send your records to the new doctor.
A primary care physician does not have to take you as a patient. They can refuse to treat you if they don’t think that they can meet your medical needs.
Please note that doctors’ offices can and do refuse to see you as a patient based on:
- insurance type,
- medical history, or