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Get the most out of your health insurance plan

By Jen Haley, producer


NEW YORK (CNN) -- When you get your insurance, you probably get a stack of papers about your plan's details, but going online can help you find benefits you may not even be aware of.

1. Go online

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For example, you can find out where to get free screenings and when you can get immunizations says Carrie McLean of e-healthinsurance.com.

Many larger insurance groups, like Kaiser Permanente, Aetna and United Healthcare are starting up social networks so members can talk to each other and trade information about doctors or procedures.

And by setting up a profile you can get information on your benefits much more easily that paging through a book.

2. Get hotline information

Many larger carriers will have a hotline staffed by nurses that you can call for an infection that seems to be getting worse or advice on how to treat a sore throat. Of course, for major medical emergencies, head to the closest hospital, but for minor injuries or for advice, these hotlines can save you time, money and a long wait at the ER.

"Generally this is something that's buried in the plan benefit information. It's not something you'll see on the first page," says McLean. Keep in mind that while carriers may offer this hotline, it may not be available on every plan.

3. Check out your discounts

Many insurance carriers offer incentives to lose weight or stop smoking. So if you join a gym, take part in a weight loss program, or start a smoking cessation program, let your insurance company know. You may be eligible for discounts on those memberships.

Talkback: Do you go online to check out your health insurance information? (See comments) To top of page

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