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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.

4. Ask Yourself: How Could Your Health Care Be Better?

This can be trickier than it seems. “I think it’s very hard for people to evaluate their own health care,” says Schoenbaum. For one, many of us have a tendency to accept things as they are. We forget that other ways might be possible. There’s also a natural fear of giving up the health care system that we know for something unknown, says Duritz.

Ask yourself:

  • Are your co-pays and premiums getting harder to afford?
  • Have you had trouble getting coverage for an appointment, test, or procedure?
  • Are drug costs eating up more of your budget?
  • Do you sometimes skimp on treatment – avoiding the doctor, not filling prescriptions – because you can’t afford it?
  • Can you see the doctors you want to see?
  • Do you get adequate preventive care, the screenings, vaccinations, and checkups that could prevent or detect a health problem early?

Don’t forget to consider other ways health insurance may affect your life. Some people stay in jobs they don’t like because they’re worried about losing health insurance, Duritz says. “We also hear about small business owners who want to expand, but don’t because they’re worried they couldn’t afford coverage for the extra employees.” These sorts of anxieties are directly relevant to health care reform.

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