It’s great to have the security and peace of mind that comes from having quality health insurance but it’s important to understand when, where and how to use your coverage. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched a new program called From Coverage to Care that details eight important steps consumers can take to use their health coverage to its fullest potential.

1. Put your health first: Staying healthy increases the chances you’ll be there for your family and friends for years to come. Use your health coverage when you are sick and when you are well, to help you live a long, healthy life.

2. Understand your health coverage: Health coverage can vary in the providers you can see and how much you have to pay for your care. Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with common coverage terms and to understand the benefits unique to your coverage.

3. Know where to go for care: Although you can get care many different places, including the emergency department, if you don’t have a life-threatening condition, it’s best for you to get routine care and recommended preventive services from a primary care provider.

4. Find a provider: Choosing the right provider is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your health care, and finding the right one can take a little work. Remember, you’re looking for a partner you can trust and work with to improve and/or maintain your health and well-being, so take the time to think about what you need.


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5. Make an appointment: Have your insurance card or other documentation handy and know what you want.

6. Be prepared for your visit: If this is your first visit to a new provider or you are using new health coverage, you will need to bring a few things with you, such as your insurance card, photo identification, completed forms, your copay (if you have one), your family health history or medical records and any medications you are taking. This will help your provider understand your health and lifestyle, and help you work together to improve your health and well-being during your visit and after you leave.

7. Decide if your provider is right for you: Your health and well-being are important and personal and you should have a provider that you can work with, trust, and feel comfortable talking to.

8. Next steps after your appointment: Now that you have found a provider and had your first visit, where do you go from here? You should follow through with your provider’s recommendations. If you are unsure or don’t remember what to do next, check with your provider. You should also pay any medical bills, and maintain your coverage by paying your premium (if you have one).

Whether you’ve had health insurance coverage for your entire life or just got covered for the first time, From Coverage to Care provides a valuable reference point as you work to establish a regular health routine. The more informed your health care decisions are, the quicker you can ensure a happier, and healthier, you.

For more information, visit http://marketplace. cms.gov/c2c.

Ray Hurd is Medicare’s Regional Administrator for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and the Virgin Islands.