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Choosing the right health care plan

Gerri Willis gives insights and tips on how to search and find the most suitable health care plan for your situation.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- As the presidential candidates debates about the future of healthcare, there are some things you can do now to make sure you're choosing the right health plan during open enrollment. Here is what you need to know.

1. Get the basics

If your employer offers health insurance options, take it. It's probably your cheapest option.

You need to compare costs and the amount of coverage you'll have. Make sure you know what the premiums are.

Figure out your access to doctors, hospitals and other professionals, find out about out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles. And pay particular attention to exclusions and limitations.

Consumer Reports lets you crunch the numbers so you can see what plan makes sense for you wallet. Check out consumerreports.org/health and click on insurance.

Remember, once you choose your health plan, you generally can't switch out until next open enrollment season.

2. Review your options

If cost is the bottom line, think about an HMO. You'll pay lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs, but choice of doctors can be more restricted.

If you like more choice, or your primary care doctor is outside of an HMO network, consider a PPO. You'll be able to choose any doctor.

Your costs are higher if you go out of the provider list. More companies are also offering high deductible health care plans. Generally premiums are lower, but your deductibles can range from $1100 to over $10,000.

Whatever plan you consider, get the report card first at the National Committee for Quality Assurance at ncqa.org.

3. Try to get group coverage

Getting insurance on your own is expensive. So, try to get in on a group plan if you can.

If you belong to a professional organization, see if there are any health insurance options available to you. If you were laid off, you can use COBRA. This guarantees group coverage for up to 18 months.

If you have no choice, then you must do your homework. Check out ehealthinsurance.com. This site lets you compare plans nationwide.

Keep in mind that if you have a health condition, you can be denied coverage in some cases. Your state's insurance department website may have a list of insurance companies that do business in the state. To top of page

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