From purchasing a new car to finding the best deal on a hotel, Americans are comparison shoppers. According to a study by GE Capital, 81 percent of consumers conduct extensive online research before purchasing major items like appliances and electronics.

Now more than ever, consumers are spending this same time and energy in a different type of online marketplace to make important decisions about their health-care coverage. Through the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans have purchased private coverage through HealthCare.gov and its state affiliates, and millions more were determined eligible for Medicaid.

February is Wise Health Care Consumer Month, a time for all to take greater control of their health care at all stages of life. Beyond enrolling in a health-care plan, each doctor visit, treatment and medication presents new options and responsibilities on behalf of the provider and the patient.

According to the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, doing research before selecting medical services can lower risk for complications, reduce costs and improve the quality of care. Increasingly, the time we spend online researching a new computer or car will begin to match the time we spend exploring our health-care options.

Part of being an informed consumer is maintaining control over medical treatments if we can no longer communicate our wishes for ourselves. Advance directives are free, legal documents that name someone to speak on your behalf if you are no longer able, and specify the treatments you would or would not want to receive.

The American Journal of Public Health found that while more than 60 percent of individuals over age 18 want their end-of-life wishes to be respected, only one-third of them had completed advance directives.

This month, take steps to become a wiser health-care consumer. Understand what is covered by your health insurance plan, and make the most of each visit with your physician by preparing questions and clarifying any information you do not understand.

If you do not have an advance directive, now is a good time to start the conversation with your loved ones and physician, before a crisis situation. As health-care providers, we owe this knowledge to the patients and families we serve. As consumers, we owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones to be our best medical advocates.

Christine Vincent

Executive director

Crossroads Hospice

Green

Costs outweigh ?the benefits

In response to the Feb. 20 editorial “Benefit of an increase”: I take issue with support for increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 in two years, as proposed by the Obama administration. The editorial states that “the benefits of an increase clearly outweigh the costs.”

I would like to ask the 500,000 people who would lose their jobs because of the increase if they feel the benefits outweigh the costs.

Yes, they might find a higher- paying job, sometime. In the meantime, how do they pay their bills and support their families?

I have seen so many times when unions and others were chastised for not accepting lower wages in return for saving or creating more jobs. How is this different?

Wages should be raised if a job is well done, or by negotiations between management and workers. It is not the business of government to set wages and prices.

If the federal government wants to pay a minimum wage to employees working for them, as President Obama has decreed for future government contracts, fine. However, it does not help to put 500,000 people out of work so 900,000 others can be lifted above the poverty line.

That is more of the bad economic thinking that has caused the decline of our country’s economy.

It is inconceivable that the Beacon Journal would support a local company that was going to lay off 500 workers so 900 remaining could be given more pay to raise them above the poverty line.

James Gainer

Norton

Name changer

Allow me to suggest that we give a huge round of applause to and a hearty “huzzah” for Jane Bond and her fellow park district commissioners for changing its name to Summit Metro Parks.

The old name was an abomination and an embarrassment to this beautiful system. I cannot think of many people who liked it.

I’m now hopeful that this action might prompt the Akron school board to drop the name “Community Learning Centers,” and call them schools again.

My thought is that any graduate from the Akron schools would say that he or she went to Seiberling Elementary School, Roswell Kent Middle School or Buchtel High School. Let’s get rid of fancy appellations and call schools and organizations by sensible names.

William O. Brown Jr.

Akron

Power plays

President Obama taught constitutional law; he is probably as well versed as any person on this. Yet as president, he has continually circumvented the Constitution, even though he has twice taken the oath to defend it.

He well knows that the legislative branch makes the laws, and that he enforces all laws. He does not have the power to alter any law.

The changing of the Affordable Care Act is a political ploy. If President Obama was a Republican, the news media would be crucifying him. What will it take for some common sense to return and people to be more interested in the good of the country than in party politics?

As an independent, I see the Democrats giving away everything, making loafers, but getting votes. Republicans do a lot of talking, but do nothing.

Curt Hecker

Green