Douglas Elliman broker Judy Hsu is also a retail pharmacist...

Douglas Elliman broker Judy Hsu is also a retail pharmacist and sees homebuyers neglecting healthcare in their decisions. Credit: Katherine Nuñez Leonardo

You're moving into your new place, and you think you've covered all the bases. You've done your research and chosen a neighborhood while factoring in convenience to your job, schools, transportation, shopping… But recent data shows that there's one thing you may have overlooked: Health care.

When choosing a new place to live, 91% of Americans do not prioritize health care, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans by the health data management firm Harmony Healthcare IT. They also found that 1 in 5 regret not researching health care in their community before moving there.

These statistics don't surprise Judy Hsu. She is a broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who graduated from St. John's University with a doctorate of pharmacy in 2005.

Hsu, who also works as a retail pharmacist, knows the importance of familiarizing yourself with the doctors, specialists and hospitals around you before moving to a new area. But there's a general neglect in making health care a priority, she said.

The survey found that finding a new doctor within your insurance network is the top issue Americans have run into after moving.

"A lot of people think, 'It's fine, I could always find someone else,' " said Hsu, whose office is in Garden City, "not knowing that with insurance companies, when you change, you'll often need to call them up and tell them who your primary physician is."

In general, older generations may think more about their health care than younger Americans when moving, said Dr. Debbie Salas-Lopez, senior vice president of community and population health for Northwell Health, based in New Hyde Park.

"One reason people might not prioritize health care is they don't have a primary care physician, or, frankly, do annual checkups or preventative exams on a regular basis," she said. "As one could say, 'Out of sight, out of mind.' "

On Long Island, access to health care can become an issue as you move farther east, Salas-Lopez added.

"Wherever you are on Long Island or in the New York region, you're always going to be within driving distance of a health care provider," she said. "I do think that's different when you go out to more rural communities and perhaps eastern Long Island; you don't have access to mass transit, things like that."

The most difficult doctors to find after relocating are general practitioners, gynecologists and dentists, according to the survey. Salas-Lopez said this could be due to a general shortage within those disciplines. Often, people may even stick with a doctor they have a good relationship with, despite the distance.

"We moved from Pennsylvania to Connecticut, and my husband still goes to Pennsylvania for his primary care physician," said Salas-Lopez. Even though he switched to local doctors for the rest of his care, in this case, "he would rather travel than start a new relationship with someone else," she added.

The nature of the market could make health care less of a priority while house-hunting, too.

"On the agents' side, I think the low inventory of houses pushed this aspect all the way to the bottom of the list," said Hsu. "If you're looking in this area and one property comes up, you have to go for it. I think that is the reason why, and people just forget."

Hsu and Salas-Lopez agree that word-of-mouth is a great way to find health care in a new neighborhood. Plus, the survey indicates that using an insurance provider directory or doing an internet search are top search methods of finding providers.

"You might find the best one while talking to your neighbor down the street," Hsu said. "Especially on Long Island: We're always walking our dogs, we're always seeing new people and saying 'hi' and talking. That's the best way to get to know the neighborhood, as well."

But due diligence during the initial home search could go a long way. For example, "if something happens and you have to make a 911 call, the ambulance would take you to the closest facility, and oftentimes people do have preferences," Hsu said.

Salas-Lopez said she hopes a change can be made to educate the public on finding health care to fit their needs, within their reach.

"Finding a place to live is important; finding good schools for your children, that's a need," she said. "Finding a place that is accessible to the things you need in life, like food shopping, visiting others. But health care must be prioritized as well, right up there with schools."

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