How to Choose a Health Plan: 12 Helpful Tips

Open enrollment means it's that time of year (again) to wade through the options on the table.

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9. Take advantage of wellness incentives. Plans often offer discounts for quitting smoking or keeping your diabetes in check. You could make $200 just by taking a health risk assessment, or receive a premium reduction to participate in wellness activities that 93 percent of large employers are now offering, according to a 2009 benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "While employees are bearing a lot of the cost increases in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, employers are giving them a carrot to help offset some of those costs," says Sara Taylor of benefits consultant Hewitt Associates.

10. See if your spouse has a better deal. If your spouse can get coverage through an employer, his or her options might be better suited for your family. Though group coverage through an employer is generally cheaper than buying a family plan in the individual market, it could pay to shop around as long as no one has an illness or condition for which coverage could be denied.

11. Protect yourself if your job looks shaky. If a layoff seems likely, you may want to consider a plan with a lower premium in case you have to pay the whole cost through COBRA, advises Samuel Gibbs, a senior vice president at eHealthInsurance.

12. Don't let the decision slide. Sixty percent of employees do nothing about their benefits during open enrollment season, Taylor says. That could drop you into a plan that doesn't work as well as your current one. Worse yet, some employers are terminating coverage for employees who do not make a choice.