Students who are enrolled at regional UConn campuses, or accompanying family members of students, need to seek medical care outside of the University system. If you will stay in the United States for a long time, you should establish a primary care physician (PCP) for you and/or any accompanying family members. This doctor is “your” doctor, and usually your first point of contact for any non-emergency medical situation. Your health insurance provider will generally provide a list of doctors on their website who accept your insurance, and you can do research and call medical providers to find out if they are accepting new patients. Not all doctors will currently accept new patients, because sometimes they are at capacity.
If you have children, your children’s doctor may be different than your own. Most children are established patients with a pediatrician (child’s doctor) or if your PCP is a “Family Practice”, they will see both children and adults.
If you are not going to be here for very long (less than a year or so) then it may be easier to rely on the medical services of Urgent Care or Walk-In clinics. These are medical offices where you can see a doctor without being an established patient with that doctor, or with that clinic.
When you or a family member is sick, if you have a PCP call their office and explain the symptoms and that you would like to see a doctor. The receptionist will tell you if they have time available in that day to see you. Depending on your symptoms, you may not see your actual doctor. You may only see a nurse or physician’s assistant affiliated with your doctor’s practice.
If your doctor’s office is not open, and you have urgent (non-emergency) symptoms, you can visit an Urgent Care of Walk In Clinic. Many offer after-hour services. For these offices, you generally do not need an appointment, although it can be helpful to call and ask them if you should come in for a certain time. Sometimes even though you are not required to have an appointment, they still give appointments to those who call in, and those people will have priority over those without appointments.
For most medical visits, you will need to pay a co-pay, which is a fee associated with your visit, and not covered by insurance. Some insurance plans also carry a deductible, which means there is a certain amount that you have to pay before insurance covers medical costs. Insurance plans that are cheaper often carry a high deductible as a consequence.
Sometimes you will get a bill for your co-pay or other visit expenses after you have been to the doctor.
If you need medication, you will need to purchase that at a pharmacy outside of your medical clinic or doctor’s office. When you visit the doctor, you should be prepared to tell them what pharmacy you want to use. You can select any pharmacy that you wish. Most choose one close to their home.
In the United States, emergency room services at the hospital are generally used only in medical emergencies. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing an emergency, it is best to go, or call your doctor or insurance company to see if there is an on-call nurse or doctor who can assess your medical situation, and recommend to go to the hospital or not.
Hospital visits are very expensive. If your emergency room visit turns out to be not an emergency, this can result in an expensive bill if your insurance does not cover the cost. However, if you think it may be an emergency, it is better to go than not. Once there, you will be asked to complete paperwork, and depending on the urgency of your case, you could wait in the waiting room until a doctor is available to see you.
In the event that an ambulance is called to transport you to the hospital, the ambulance costs may or may not be covered by your insurance.
Women’s health is an area of health services related to women’s reproductive systems and sexual health. In the U.S., women are advised to meet with a gynecologist (a doctor specializing in women’s sexual health), doctor or nurse specially trained in women’s reproductive health annually for cervical cancer and other screenings. Student Health Services at UConn provides women’s health services. Women who do not use SHS may choose to see both a primary care physician (PCP) for general health, and a gynecologist for specialist care OR sometimes the PCP also provides gynecological services. Again, check your health insurance to see which doctors are covered through your insurance. Gynecologists can also prescribe and counsel on birth control and provide testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Abortion is legal in Connecticut up to a certain point in the pregnancy, but is only provided by certain doctors and clinics. In the U.S., it is common for menstruating women to use tampons instead of sanitary pads, but what they use is each woman’s personal choice.
If you or your spouse become pregnant while in the United States, make an appointment with an obstetrician doctor as soon as possible for prenatal care. Many women’s health providers offer both gynecology and obstetric services. Some providers also offer midwife services. In the U.S. it is common to see the obstetrician monthly until you get closer to the end of your pregnancy, when you will see them bi-weekly, and then weekly. Please see the Uconn overview of Pregnant and Parenting Resources for all students, faculty and staff, and the ISSS Family Resources page.
In the U.S., over the counter medications that do not require a prescription can be purchased at drugstores, supermarkets or department stores. Many of these stores also have a pharmacy where you pick up your prescribed medications. If you visit an off-campus doctor, you will need to tell them where you want to pick up any prescriptions. Pharmacists can answer questions about your prescribed medications, as well as “over the counter” medications that are available in-store.
If you will be here for a longer period without plans to return home during the break, you may want to find a dentist for regular cleanings. UConn offers a stand alone dental insurance plan that students may purchase. Most U.S. dental patients have regular preventative cleanings (once or twice per year) and the insurance will cover some costs associated with other dental work. To find a dentist you can look for places close to you, and call and ask if they are accepting new patients.