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1. Get Informed continued...

"Remember that nothing is concrete yet," she says. That’s an important point: Any final bill that goes to a vote and to the president for signature will likely look quite different from the proposals circulating early in the legislative process.

Some good resources for understanding the basics of health reform include:

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on health care issues in the U.S.
  • The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that promotes improvements in the health care system.
  • AARP, a nonprofit organization focused on the concerns of people over age 50.
  • PolitiFact, a site run by the St. Petersburg Times that evaluates the accuracy of political statements about health care (and other topics.)
  • HealthReform.gov a site from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Read a variety of perspectives to get a broader view on the issue. And don’t accept information passively -- question it. Health care reform is an immensely complicated issue and there are lots of different ways to look at it.

Beware of allegations and conspiracy theories you may see in emails or on TV. Do your bit to elevate the debate about health care reform – get people talking about the facts, not rumors.

2. Talk With Your Doctor

Ask your doctor about health care reform and how it may affect your family’s medical care. Your doctor may have some advice as to what sort of reforms would benefit you and your family most, given your specific situation.

In a more general way, understanding health care reform means working more closely with your doctor and becoming a better-informed patient. Experts say that culturally, Americans tend to like their doctors to do stuff. We like tests and medical interventions and surgeries. While a vigilant, aggressive approach to medicine is good up to a point, it can get expensive. And what’s more, it can become bad for our health, Cassil tells WebMD.

“More medical care than you need can get you in a lot of trouble,” says Cassil. Unnecessary tests and procedures can have side effects, sometimes serious ones. A person with back pain might opt for a type of invasive back surgery, but research might show that the approach is less effective, and riskier, than taking a painkiller.

As part of educating yourself about health care reform, become a smarter patient. When a doctor gives you some options for treatment, ask questions like:

  • Which treatment has the best evidence?
  • Which treatment has the fewest side effects?
  • Which treatment will cost the most – even if my insurer is paying the bill?

Becoming aware of these details will make us all savvier about our health care. It could also make us healthier.

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