Considering a high-deductible health plan? Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at Consumers Union, suggests that you spread out summaries of your health insurance options on a table, look at the different premiums -- a high deductible usually produces a relatively low monthly bill -- and estimate what your total out-of-pocket costs would be in a typical year under the varying plans. Then calculate the expenses if you were confronted with a major health problem.

Before choosing a high-deductible plan, Shearer said, "make sure the premium differential really makes it worth it."

It's also important to consider the size of the provider network offered by a high-deductible health plan, because going outside that network for care could significantly increase your costs.

Sara R. Collins, program officer for the Commonwealth Fund's Future of Health Insurance, offers this advice on who may be well-suited for a high-deductible plan and who may not:

Good candidates typically:

* Are in overall good health.

* Have enough income or savings to meet high out-of-pocket expenses.

* Know where to find cost and quality data on local health care providers.

* Understand their policy's out-of-pocket obligations.

Bad candidates often:

* Have chronic illnesses.

* Know they'll soon be facing major health problems.

* Have limited incomes and savings.

* Rely on costly or multiple medications.

* Live in areas where the choice of health care providers is slim.

-- Christopher J. Gearon