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Mapping Out Access to Health Care

Photo of medical professionals.By Larissa Zoot, MPH, Special Assistant to the Chief Medical Officer

Some of my favorite inventions of the “modern era” are the Global Positioning System (GPS) and internet-based mapping sites. Before the invention of these resources, I used to feel really anxious if I was driving somewhere unfamiliar and not sure of the route. I would take some rough written directions along with me, but what if I took a wrong turn? Would I be able to figure out how to get back on course, or would I become hopelessly lost? 

For the millions of Americans unfamiliar with health insurance, including those who have recently been able to purchase insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), navigating the road From Coverage to Care can be similarly intimidating. For this reason, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have developed resources to help people with new health care coverage understand their benefits and connect to primary care and the preventive services that are right for them.

“A Roadmap to Better Care and a Healthier You” is a comprehensive guide which breaks down accessing care into eight clear steps and also includes glossaries and helpful links to additional resources. Some parts of the guide are currently available in English and Spanish; others are currently available only in English but will be available in Spanish soon.

The eight steps include:

  1. Put your health first
  2. Understand your health coverage
  3. Know where to go for care
  4. Pick a provider
  5. Make an appointment
  6. Be prepared for your visit
  7. Decide if the provider is right for you
  8. Next steps after your appointment

Additional resource materials and translations will become available over time and in response to consumer needs for assistance in understanding and accessing ongoing health care.  All of the current materials can be downloaded on the CMS website.

Just like mapping websites and GPS, From Coverage to Care is designed to break down a complicated route from one place to another into manageable, easy-to-follow steps, and to ensure the driver (the newly insured) reaches their destination (access to quality health care). I personally do not experience any of that “Will I be able to get there?” anxiety when I am in the car anymore, since turning to resources that help map out my path. If you are newly insured with health care coverage, or planning to enroll in coverage in the near future (the next open enrollment period will run from Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015), the “Roadmap to Better Care and a Healthier You” can provide the same support to you.

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