Now that the overhaul of the nation's health insurance system has become a reality, even people who do have health insurance may want to be fluent in its specifics — to know what to expect, and when. Some changes take effect in a few months, some in a few years.
Many groups are beginning to post resources to help consumers understand the bill's tenets, Here are some good resources:
• Healthinsuranceproviders.com, which sells health insurance over the Web, offers a broad, quick view of the timeline for when various provisions will be implemented. (I like the timeline; that doesn't mean I necessarily endorse the commercial part of the site.)
• The Consumer Reports Health Blog posted its summary in February, weeks before the House voted, but the information is up to date, and the staff will be adding updates.
• The California HealthCare Foundation has put together some hypothetical examples of people in need of insurance (a couple earning, combined, $50,000, but can't afford employer coverage offered at the husband's job). Read through, even if the exact scenario does not perfectly match your own. The responses contain accurate, well-phrased information.
• FamiliesUSA a key health reform advocacy group, plans to be "health reform central," in its words, and is going to launch a consumer website on the topic within a few days. For now, check the home page.
• The Medicare Rights Center, an information center based in New York City and Washington, D.C., has a fact sheet on how the law will affect people on Medicare. (The site still refers to the new health reform legislation as the Obama Plan.)
• The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible, under the new law, for giving people information about affordable health insurance in every state. Look for a website with that information within the next three months, according to HHS spokesman Nicholas Papas. For now, sign up for alerts and health reform news at http://www.healthreform.gov by clicking on "Email Updates" at the top of the page.