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8. Will I have to buy health care insurance?

Probably. Most experts believe that for health care reform to work, virtually everyone has to have health insurance.

Why? One of the key elements of health care reform is to stop insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have medical problems. But in order for that to work, everyone needs to buy into the system. If they didn’t, healthy people could wait until they got sick to start paying for insurance. It would be like allowing people to buy homeowner’s insurance after a fire or burglary.

To understand this requirement better, think of your car insurance. Most states require drivers to have car insurance, but drivers can choose from many policies, and select a bare minimum liability policy if they want.

9. Will I get financial help if I can’t afford health insurance?

Maybe. Even though health care reform is intended to drive down prices, it will still be too expensive for some people. To help with that, legislation will likely include subsidies for people with lower incomes.  

However, regardless of subsidies, odds are that some people will still find paying for their insurance difficult.

It’s a trade-off: People with health problems who have individual insurance policies will likely pay less than they do now. People who are younger and healthy may pay more, especially if they have been going without health insurance to date.

10. Will health care reform make my medical care better or worse?

This is the big question. The answer depends in part on your current situation. If you’ve been denied insurance for years because of a pre-existing medical condition -- or you’re self-employed and haven’t been able to afford health insurance -- health care reform will probably improve your access to care.

Experts believe that most people who have insurance through an employer won’t notice much of a difference in their medical care. But over time, you may see changes to your benefits. For instance, policies that don’t meet the new minimum level of benefits will change or be replaced. Depending on the options available once health care reform takes effect, some employers will probably choose to offer different policies.

The hope is that costs can be reduced in a smart way that won’t sacrifice the quality of care - by improving performance and  doing things like reducing unnecessary tests, ineffective treatments, and medical errors. The insurance companies will decide what’s necessary and what isn’t, according to proposed legislation. The government won’t weigh in on those decisions. Of course, it won’t be easy. A treatment that one person considers unnecessary, might seem crucial to another.

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