Doctors & Dentists

Appointments, visits and insurance

Doctors & Dentists

In America there are numerous types of doctors, from general practitioners to specialists such as cardiologists and dermatologists. Most people in the U.S. have a ‘primary-care physician’, who refers you to specialists or a hospital if necessary.

Note that most doctors in large cities specialize in one or two areas (even if in general practice), the most common of which are internal medicine, family practice, paediatrics and gynaecology. The best primary-care physician will depend on your and your family’s age and your medical background. Most Americans go to an internist or family practitioner (FP) for routine care. The term GP (general practitioner) is becoming less common, as FPs have a higher training. If you’re staying for a while in the U.S., we recommend you to find a primary-care physician as soon as possible instead of waiting before you’re ill (when you probably won’t have the time to make a good choice).

It is always a good idea to make an appointment before going to see a physician. If it is your first time you will probably have to fill out a form with your name, address, social security number and information regarding your health insurance. Unless you need immediate treatment, it is best NOT to go to a hospital Emergency Room to see a doctor. You should use these facilities for emergencies only as they tend to be quite expensive.

If a doctor treats you for a non-emergency, you may have to pay the bill first and then file a claim with the insurance company for reimbursement. It is therefore important to keep careful records and receipts of all medical services. Contact your insurance company for more information.

If you are in a big city chances are that you will be able to find a doctor who speaks Spanish or Chinese. You can check the local Yellow Pages to find a list of Doctors or call your insurance company. You can also contact your embassy or consulate for a list of doctors who speak your native language.


In America, dentists, like general practitioners and other specialists, usually have private practices and tend to be expensive. Since dental costs in the U.S. are very high, many foreigners schedule dental visits during a trip home.

Many large hospitals, particularly those associated with universities, have dental clinics that are open to the general public and can be much less expensive than those charged for private treatment. Usually only emergency dental treatment is covered by an insurance policy, so make sure you ask about fees before going to a dentist. Since treatment will probably be cheaper at home, get a full check-up before coming to America.

Further reading

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