Preparing for the new health care legislationc

The massive health care legislation is now law. And many of us are struggling to determine its impact.

Several of the large provisions do not go into effect until 2014, and this complicates the task. But scores of other provisions come into play in the near future.

How can you start preparing to deal with the new world of health care? You might consider several things.

First, try to learn everything you can about the legislation. Even though much of it will not be implemented until federal regulators develop the rules, the legislation will have a monetary and a coverage impact on most people. Perhaps the best source of information is the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website: Hhs.gov.

A second step is to look for coverage changes. Those who are uninsured and have health problems may become eligible for a new federal high-risk insurance pool this year. If you fall into this category, watch for information at Hhs.gov.

If you had insurance before the legislation became law, you can keep it. But some provisions — such as removal of lifetime caps on coverage — will apply to your existing policy.

Third, if you do not have a physician, you need to find one who will accept you as a patient.

In all likelihood, there will be a significant physician shortage, as the legislation ultimately will add 32 million people to the insurance rolls.

This will especially affect those who are on Medicare. With reduced Medicare funding and lower reimbursement rates, expect more physicians to refuse to accept Medicare patients, as is already occurring throughout the country.

In addition, if you do not have long-term care, the legislation provides coverage, but it probably will not become available immediately.

You must pay into this to receive benefits. Watch for this at Hhs.gov.

Finally, despite the political rhetoric, most of us should plan to pay additional taxes to finance the health care program.

Wayne Curtis is on the board of directors of First United Security Bank. He can be reached by e-mail at wc_curtis@yahoo.com.