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    2. Talk With Your Doctor continued...

    “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.

    3. Understand Your Current Coverage

    If you’re like a lot of people, when you get that fat booklet from your health care insurer outlining your plan’s coverage, you stick it in a “to read” pile – where it languishes unread for months. Or you just throw it right into the trash.

    But experts say that you have to understand your coverage. First of all, your health – and finances – depend on it.

    “Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to understand how your health care works, because by then it could be too late,” says Cassil. “Everyone needs to sit down with that mind-numbingly detailed, jargon-riddled document and read it. There’s no substitute.”

    Second, it’s hard to form a clear opinion about health care reform if you don’t know about your current coverage. People with coverage from their employer tend to be insulated from the financial realities of their care, says Nicole Duritz, Health Care Portfolio Director at AARP in Washington D.C. They know what their co-pays are, and maybe they know how much their employer takes off their paycheck for health care. But they often don’t understand the larger picture – the total cost of their care.

    Start paying attention to your medical bills -- not only what you pay, but how much a drug or doctor’s visit or procedure cost in total.

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