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In the Face of Health Care Reform Consumers Must Be Informed

The Obama administration is beginning to make steps toward enacting the new national health care laws and insurers are looking for the best ways to both respond to those legal imperatives and to protect their profit margin. The question remains, how much do you, as a consumer, lose in terms of benefits and choices about your own health care? At least in the short term, that may prove to be a tricky question.

Already insurance companies are promoting plans with lower premiums in an effort to address costs, but the trade off is that the insured have a much narrower selection of doctors and hospitals. Want freedom of choice? Write a bigger check. That does seem to run counter to the president’s promise that all Americans would be free to go to the doctor they picked and to receive the treatment they desire. The carrot is a savings of as much as 15 percent on the lesser cost plans. In the middle of a recession. There is no way that cannot be tempting.

Between now and 2014 when all Americans will be required to carry health insurance, many people will be looking at purchasing coverage for the first time. Some will have avoided doing so in the past because they could not afford it, others because they did not want it. Now, more than ever, consumers who buy medical insurance are going to be compelled to get savvy about exactly what they are buying and exactly what it means for their personal health care.

– Use online resources.
– Read the fine print of the policy.
– Ask questions.
– Get multiple price quotes.
– Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

None of those points can be stressed strongly enough and taken together they are absolutely essential. More than 60% of personal bankruptcies in this country are due to medical debts. The new insurance laws are not perfect and many wrinkles will have to be ironed out over the next three and a half years. Do not expect anyone to protect you, but you. Know exactly what you’re buying and don’t pay for a policy that does not meet your needs or that does not offer a compromise with which you can live.

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