Starting Monday the 400,000 federal workers and retirees here will begin shopping for a health-insurance plan to cover them and their families for 1983.

Depending on the health-insurance plan you pick, you will pay premiums next year ranging from $380 to $1,600.

The open enrollment period (when you pick a 1983 health plan) will run from Nov. 22 to Dec. 10. Federal workers and retirees are faced with a bewildering array of prices and health plans (more than 120 plans are offered).

Price is a major factor in selecting health-insurance plans for 1983. Premiums jumped 31 percent this year and will go up another 24 percent on average in January.

With the steep insurance costs and the number of plans available, picking the right plan isn't easy -- but it is very important.

There are three radio specials coming up this week designed to help people understand the health plans and select the one best for them.

Today at 11 a.m. on WRC radio, the editors of Washington Consumers' CHECKBOOK magazine will take questions from callers and tell how they rate the 1983 health plans by cost to you, coverage and service.

Tuesday at 11:05 a.m. WAMU will examine the differences between HMOs (health maintenance organizations) and traditional health-insurance plan coverage.

Friday at 10 a.m. WGTS will have a show comparing benefits offered by the George Washington University health plan versus those of Group Health Association and the National Federation of Federal Employes.

On Nov. 29 the Federal Government Service Task Force will hold a health-benefit plan symposium at 7:30 p.m. at the Silver Spring Armory. Health-insurance experts will be available to answer questions. Call the Task Force (226-2494) on Monday for more information.