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Getting the most out of healthcare

As health insurance gets more expensive, Gerri Willis gives tips on how to choose the best plan.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK ( -- It's that time of year again: open enrollment. Soon you'll be getting a package in the mail outlining all the health care options you have. Here's what you can expect and how to get the best plan.

1: Hold onto your wallets

Health insurance is getting more expensive. The cost of employer-provided health insurance will increase. And employees can expect to pay about 10 percent more than last year for total healthcare costs, including premiums and out-of pocket costs. That's about $300 more than last year.

2: Develop healthy habits

More and more companies will be offering economic incentives for their employees to develop healthy habits, like enrolling in disease management programs or taking a health-risk appraisal online.

But there are a few companies that take the opposite approach and penalize workers for unhealthy habits by charging higher monthly premiums. For example, employees may be charged an extra $50-$100 bucks for smoking. To find out what programs your workplace may offer, contact your human resources department.

3: Scrutinize your dependents

Employers are paying much closer attention to the people that employees report as dependents. More and more employers are conducting eligibility audits and asking workers to provide proof that those dependents they enroll in the health plan are considered legal dependents, according to Tom Billet at Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

In fact, 5 to 8 percent of people covered as dependents are not eligible, he says. Other companies are enacting spousal surcharges. If your spouse gets insurance from an employer, yet is listed on your plan, you'll have to pay a surcharge.

4: Choose wisely

Keep in mind, there are fewer options out there period. If cost is the bottom line, think about an HMO. You'll pay lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs, but your choice of doctors can be more restricted.

Check out how much you paid for coverage in the past year. Then compare that with monthly premiums you would have to pay for a new plan, as well as the deductibles, co-pays or co-insurance, and prescriptions.

If you like more choices, or your primary care doctor is outside of an HMO network, consider a PPO. You'll be able to choose any doctor. Keep in mind your costs are higher if you go out of the provider list. So check the list of providers in any new plans you are considering.

If you're considering any plan, get the report card first at the National Committee for Quality Assurance at  Top of page

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