I have health insurance. What do I do next?

The health insurance marketplace, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, has helped millions of Americans obtain health insurance when they were not able to do so previously. In addition, 28 states, including Delaware, have expanded Medicaid eligibility to insure many others.

If you have recently become insured, it is an important time to invest in your current and future health. Many people without insurance are new to this approach and have become used to waiting for illnesses or diseases to get bad before getting care in an emergency room or hospital. One of the best things about health insurance is that it helps you take care of yourself sooner, get care before an illness becomes a big problem, or, in many cases, even prevent diseases from developing or causing harm.

The best thing you can do once you have health insurance is gather any health information or background you have (such as medicines, history of illnesses and history of hospitalizations) and set an appointment to establish care with a primary care provider. This is true at any age and for every member of your family. Primary care physicians are pediatricians (children and teens only), general medicine internists (adults only), and family physicians (all ages). For women, especially those in reproductive years, gynecologists may also provide primary care services related to women’s health issues. In many offices, primary care physicians collaborate with nurse practitioners or physician assistants to provide primary care services.

The primary care provider serves a critically important role for you and your health. This doctor will evaluate your medical issues, health concerns, health risks and health behaviors that, if addressed properly, can add years of quality living for you and your family. Through history, examination and preventive screening, the primary care provider may also find early signs of disease that can be dealt with before becoming dangerous.

Most importantly, you have the opportunity to establish care with a trusted individual with whom you can build a relationship for many years. Your primary care provider will become your resource and advocate within the health system, with whom you can confide and discuss decisions regarding your personal health issues. The primary care provider will also help coordinate care for you in a complex health system, while guiding you to proper, needed care during times of illness.

To sum up:

  1. If you have health insurance, it’s time to use it.
  2. Gather your important health information and background.
  3. Make an appointment with a primary care provider to establish a relationship and care.

If you have not yet registered for health insurance and believe you may be eligible, visit Choose Health Delaware. Enrollment for insurance in 2015 is open until Feb. 15. In addition, specially trained marketplace guides offer free counseling about your insurance options. Learn more about Christiana Care’s Marketplace Guides.