Health Insurance How-To's

Choosing a health-care plan is no easy task, but that doesn't mean Americans should shy away from evaluating their health-insurance options.

Ellen McGirt, Money Magazine's editor-at-large, and Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC News' medical editor, visited "Good Morning America" to discuss what consumers can do to get the right health-care plan.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans get health insurance through their employer. This is the season when millions are choosing their insurance plan for next year.

For many, the easiest solution may seem to stick with the same plan as the year before, but McGirt advises against that.

"It's tempting, and we're so busy, but chances are the plans themselves have changed," she said. "You and your family's needs may have changed. It's important to do an inventory and figure out which plan is right for you."

McGirt cautions against the logic that cheaper equals better. As for the alphabet soup of insurance options -- which includes HMO, PPO and POS -- McGirt said not to get wrapped up in the letters.

"Don't worry so much about what those letters mean. It's about network," she said, referring to whether care is pricey outside the plan's network of doctors.

"For families that are mostly getting regular checkups, an HMO can be ideal. For special needs, you may need access to different kinds of care," McGirt said. "That's where you're going to want to look outside of your network."

Hit the Books, Do the Research

For Americans who don't get health insurance through an employer, choosing a plan can be more difficult.

McGirt encourages consumers to take advantage of resources every state offers through its insurance commissioner.

The public library can be a great way to learn about various health-care options. An insurance broker can also help make the process easier.

Johnson says he's concerned about the quality of care consumers get with health-care plans.

"What I'm really interested in is the quality of these plans," he said. "How do they hire their doctors? How do they monitor their doctors? How do they make sure patients get what they need?"

Johnson believes that the confusion associated with choosing health care is a sign that the system needs large-scale reform.

"It certainly proves that we need more simplified choices for people," he said. "You can find out more about cars than you can about health insurance in a minute."

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