Image: Medical doctor © Corbis, SuperStock

Poring over the fine print of health insurance plans to choose a policy is nobody's idea of fun, but you're better off spending some painstaking time researching before you buy than nursing a nasty financial headache later.

The "quality" of a health plan often depends on your needs and how much financial risk you can bear.

"One size doesn't fit all," says Martin Rosen, co-founder and executive vice president of Health Advocate, which helps employers and individual clients navigate the health care system. "You really need to assess what you need."

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Whether you're choosing among group health plans offered by your employer or shopping for individual health insurance coverage, there are seven scenarios to avoid.

1. Your doctor isn't in the network

You'll pay more to use health care providers who aren't in your health plan's network, so check to see if the doctors and other professionals you want are included.

A plan that tightly restricts you to a local network might be sufficient if you need care only in your area, but it won't benefit a kid away at college or meet all your needs if you spend a lot of time on the road, says Pete Villemain, the president of Employee Benefit Services, which manages employer benefits plans.

Make sure any specialists you need are also covered by the plan, Rosen says. Don't assume a specialist is in the network just because your primary care doctor gave you the name.

2. You pay huge insurance premiums to save a few bucks on the co-pay

"The mistake I see individuals make so many times is they focus so much on getting a low co-pay and they fail to look at how much extra premium they pay for it," says Villemain.

He suggests evaluating how you'll use your plan and comparing the costs accordingly. If you go to the doctor only a couple of times a year, is it worth hundreds of dollars extra on the premium just to get a lower co-pay?

3. The drugs you take aren't covered

Some states require individual plans to offer prescription drug coverage, but in other states, many individual health insurance plans don't cover drugs, says benefits consultant Michael Goodheim of Farsighted Strategies in Seattle.

If the plan provides prescription-drug coverage, check to see if your medications are included on its formulary, which lists the preferred drugs for coverage, Goodheim says. Expect to pay more if you take a drug that is not listed.

Rosen suggests checking whether the plan provides discounts if you mail-order prescription drugs in bulk. For instance, you might be able to pay less per month for a 90-day supply through mail order than for three 30-day supplies at the pharmacy counter.