How to Choose a Health Insurance Plan: 12 Helpful Tips

Here are some factors to consider when selecting health coverage during open enrollment.

Video: Health Insurance Basics

Video: Health Insurance Basics

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8. Consider opening an account for your healthcare expenses. To save on premiums, think about setting up a healthcare savings account to help pay for prescriptions, contact lenses, and other medical expenses. Contributions to a health savings or flexible spending account are subtracted from your pretax income— a big plus. There are, though, some drawbacks to both. A health savings account has to be paired with a high-deductible plan—with an annual deductible of more than $1,200 for an individual and even more for a family. While a flexible spending account can go with all plan types, you lose any leftover contributions that go unused at year's end. Beginning in January, you can no longer pay for over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol or Prilosec, using HSA or FSA dollars unless you get a written note from your doctor.

9. Check out the prescription coverage. Your plan may add or drop certain drugs that were covered the previous year, so make sure whatever pills you take on a regular basis are still covered this year. This information is included in a plan's listing of medications or formulary and may be available online. Find out if there are additional discounts on generic drugs and whether you have the option of saving more by receiving prescriptions by mail.

[Drug Discount: 5 Ways to Save at the Pharmacy]

10. Take advantage of wellness incentives. Companies often offer employees cash incentives to complete a lifestyle questionnaire that covers things like exercise and smoking habits. Employers use these assessments to encourage workers to participate in wellness activities such as fitness programs or smoking cessation to reverse bad habits and lower health premiums for the company and its employees.

11. Don't forget to reconcile your spouse's coverage with your own. If your spouse or kids are covered under your plan, make sure your employer is still contributing the same amount toward premiums for family plans. Some have begun charging for each dependent, which could make it too expensive to add that 22-year-old child back onto your plan. Employers are also increasingly adding surcharges for spouses whose companies offer insurance; you may find it's no longer cost effective to keep your spouse on your plan.

12. Plan for the worst. Experts advise employees worried about being laid off to consider a plan with a lower premium. Laid-off employees who continue coverage through COBRA now have to pick up the entire cost themselves, since a government subsidy that chipped in substantially ended last June.

This piece is updated from a previous version originally published on November 11, 2009.