Health Insurance 101: Choosing the best plan

Nearly 150 million Americans use employer-sponsored health insurance through the 55 percent of companies that offer benefits.

It's almost open-enrollment, where everyone at work is deciding what selections to make.

CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger said there are three basic questions you want to ask:

  • What does this plan cover?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Are your doctors in that network?

When deciding, make sure you consider out-of-pocket costs and not just the premium, Schlesinger said.

It's also important to consider if the doctor you need is included in your plan, especially if you've got a chronic illness and you're used to seeing a particular physician.

After that, there are two basic types of plans to understand: HMOs and PPOs.

"A health maintenance organization is one where you have one primary care physician," Schlesinger explained.

As "the quarterback of your health care," that primary doctor must refer you to all other physicians.

On the other hand, a preferred provider organization, or PPO, is more flexible.

"It tends to be a slightly more expensive option, but you can go to other physicians without a referral," she said.

But Schlesinger warned it might cost extra if you go out of network with a PPO.

Above all, it might be most important to understand how you can save money.

"A lot of people are leaving money on the table; they're not using flexible spending accounts," Schlesinger said.

The flexible spending account, or FSA, allows you to put away $2,500 before taxes to pay for unreimbursed expenses.

While before, Schlesinger said, there was a fear people would have to "use it or lose it," now there's a new feature.

"You can roll over $500 of unused to further years," she said.

There's also a 2.5 month grace period to use it.

Schlesinger pointed out that another overlooked benefit offered through employers is insurance, including life, disability and long-term care.

"Try to make sure that they are portable plans," she said, "you can bring the insurance with you if you move to another employer."