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WalletPop experts answer your questions about healthcare and tax prep

Question mark girlWith so many changes in healthcare and taxes these days, it's prudent to plan ahead and talk to as many experts as you can before bills come due. WalletPop experts are on hand to help. Here, they tackle questions on shopping for a new medical plan and finding the right accountant.

My retired parents, who live in Virginia, need my help in finding them a new health care plan. They require a lot of medication, and their current insurance only covers generic versions of their pills. My father needs one medicine to be the name brand. How can I help them while I live in New York? What if I switch plans and the new insurance company decides not to cover the name brand after all? Is there any protection for my parents?
-- Maria, Brooklyn
, N.Y.

Answer from Josh King, general counsel for Avvo, a free online legal directory
There's nothing in the new healthcare law that limits or controls pricing or coverage for name-brand pharmaceuticals. However, if you find a plan that covers the medicine you need now, it's unlikely to change down the road. While you may not have a law protecting you, customer pressure and the fact that medicine usually loses pricing power as newer remedies become available will likely lead to coverage being retained. You should also explore whether the medicine is cheaper via a Canadian pharmacy.

My wife and I got hit with a large tax bill last tax season. We would like to avoid another one. We've been told to work with an accountant. How do I know if he or she is a good one?
--Ace, New York City

Answer from John A. Tracy, CPA, Ph.D., author of Accounting for Dummies

The first thing to look for is whether the person is a Certified Public Accountant. If the person is holding himself/herself out publicly as a CPA, the odds are pretty good that he or she is in fact a licensed CPA. If you have any doubt about this, you can access the list of CPAs maintained by the state you reside in. All states maintain a website where you can find this information.

If the person is not a CPA, things get more complicated. There are many other credentials -- some of which mean something and some of which do not. If you are using the accountant primarily for income tax, the IRS has recently adopted more stringent rules and regulations governing tax preparers. You can find these at the IRS website. Ask the accountant about his/her standing regarding the latest IRS regulations.

Also, you can ask for a list of references from the accountant and contact three of four of these to see whether or not they are satisfied with the accounting services offered. Be sure to press these references for information regarding whether the accountant tolerates (or encourages) "creative" accounting methods. Assuming you are an honest person, of course, you do not want to get involved with an accountant who is not honest and law abiding.

Got a question for our experts? Send in a comment and we'll get on it.

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