Health & Medicine

Expert encourages non-profit workers to be proactive about health care reform

MIDWAY — While the nation waits to see the shape health care reform will take later this year, individuals can help themselves navigate the new system now.

"There is an ease of mind if you are not waiting for things to happen," said Laura Fredricks, a national expert on non-profits.

Fredricks spoke Thursday to several dozen members of the Kentucky Non-Profit Network during a retreat at Equus Run Vineyard. Most of those in attendance make a living asking for money, said Fredricks, but are not so good at asking for what they need for themselves. That includes, she said, asking about health care.

"I am just encouraging people to be more proactive, while all the dust is settling," she said.

Enrollment for health insurance through a government-operated exchange begins in Kentucky on Oct. 1. State health officials estimate some 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians will be eligible for coverage. Those who think they might be eligible for coverage can get information at the state website

But Fredricks, a consultant and author based in New York City, said even those with insurance should begin to ask questions and take action.

For example, if you don't have a primary-care doctor it's time to get one, she said. Once the previously uninsured enter the system that may be more difficult, she said.

If you have a primary-care physician, Fredricks suggested you ask him or her how they expect health care reform to affect their office. Then people can decide if they want to stay with that medical practice or go somewhere else.

Before you are in a health crisis, it is important to meet with a specialist that you might need, she said, such as a cardiologist or a orthopedist.

Also, if you have a good primary-care provider he or she should be able to make referrals to specialists that are qualified, she said. Friends and family are also a good source of referrals.

Finally, while many facets of health care reform remain in flux, there are a few that are clear. Parents are able to keep their children on the family health insurance until they are 26. Fredricks suggested

now is the time to check with your insurance company about the particulars of making sure that coverage is available to your family.

While Fredricks offered some concrete suggestions for individuals, there are still plenty of unknowns for non-profits.

"I sense there is a lot of confusion," said Danielle Clore, executive director of the Kentucky Non-Profit Network. The network includes members from more than 400 of the state's 1,600 non-profits.

Nationwide non-profit networks are pushing for answers to questions about health care but little is forthcoming, she said, adding "They are not getting any answers."