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Healthcare advocate shares four ways to handle long doctor wait times

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If you're hoping to schedule a doctor's visit in the new year and can't get in quickly for an appointment, healthcare advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Maribeth Guarino, has some advice besides just getting on a waitlist.

1.) Schedule a telehealth visit

"So you definitely have to check with your insurance even if your telehealth provider is in-network. Some telehealth companies don't contract with every provider or with every insurance company. And then there are also these other like extra fees that are being charged. One of them is called the facility fee, which in telehealth, personally, there shouldn't be a facility fee, right? There's no facility that you're going to, but there are definitely other fees that are tacked onto those medical bills. And so just being aware that may be the case, you can always check with your insurance and say, this is my plan, this is the provider I'm planning on going to, what should my expected charges be?"

2.) Get referrals from your doctor for other providers

"Don't necessarily take the first recommendation or referral. Do your homework and check with your insurance company, because it is worth the extra phone call to not get a $700 bill at the end of your appointment."

"You have to ask, 'Is that doctor part of my network?'"

3.) Check with your insurance company for in-network providers

"There are some requirements for insurers to maintain provider directories of who's in network and who's not. So, you should definitely check there first. And if for whatever reason your insurer doesn't have a directory, you could ask them directly, like directly call them and say, 'Can you find me an available in-network doctor?'"

4.) Ask your insurer about out-of-network doctors but make sure to get charges waived

"You should ask them to waive any out-of-network charges so that you can have a timely appointment. And if they agree to that, you should get that approval in writing. Anything that they agree to that differs from your plan, you should get in writing so you have the proof."