11 | CHOOSE WISELY Don't just take the easy way out during open enrollment and sign up for the same health plan as you had last year. These days the difference in premiums is small, ranging from an average of $590 a year for an HMO to $637 for a PPO; the real differences lie in the plans' co-pays and deductibles. To figure out which option is best for you, estimate what your total annual costs are likely to be under each plan, depending on your family's medical needs (many companies have online calculator tools to help figure this out). If you have kids, you'll likely want a plan with low co-pays for doctor visits and good coverage for preventive care; if you're young and healthy, a plan with higher deductibles and lower monthly premiums may be a better bet.
12 | WIDEN YOUR NETWORK You know that seeing an in-network doc will save you 50% or more on the cost of treatment. But sometimes only an out-of-network specialist will do--say, if that physician is far more experienced in performing the procedure you need than in-network docs. In those cases, it's worth calling your insurer's pre-certification department to explain why using the out-of-network provider is essential and ask for coverage at in-network rates. You've got a good shot. "Insurers would rather strike a deal up front than go through an expensive appeals process," says billing expert Nora Johnson.
13 | FOLLOW THE RULES Read the fine print on your plan to find out your insurer's requirements for referrals and pre-certification. You're likely to need them for expensive procedures like an MRI, which can cost you more than a thousand dollars if your insurer refuses to pick up the bill.
14 | GET WHAT YOU DESERVE Are you paying the tab for acupuncture or chiropractic care? Check your insurer's website or call the help line to see if your plan covers alternative medicine treatments. Some 87% now do. Many also offer discounts on preventive measures like vitamins and bike helmets.