Health insurance customers have to think hard about the alphabet soup of plan options they sift through. Some coverage offers lower monthly premiums or lower deductibles, but in exchange for limited doctor choices and big financial penalties for straying outside those options.

Here’s how these plans work, and some things to look out for:

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How do you tell plans apart?

Two plans becoming more common are health maintenance organizations, known as HMOs, and exclusive provider organizations, known as EPOs. Both restrict customers to a specific network of doctors. But an HMO generally requires a primary care doctor to act as a gatekeeper. If you need a specialist, you have to see the primary care doctor first for a referral.

EPOs, which are growing especially fast, don’t funnel patients through a primary care doctor like an HMO.

Both types of coverage generally have smaller networks than more traditional — and often more expensive — plans known as preferred provider organizations, or PPOs.

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If you opt for an HMO or EPO but go out of the network for care, you may have to pay the entire bill. PPOs generally pay at least some of the cost for out-of-network care.

What’s my best fit?

It depends on your appetite for risk, your health, and how much you care about seeing the doctor you want.

You may find the lowest monthly cost, also known as a premium, from an HMO, but a primary care doctor will direct your care and sign off on who you get to see.

You may find the lowest deductible, the amount you have to pay before most coverage starts, at an EPO. And EPOs can be a good fit for someone who doesn’t have an established relationship with a doctor.

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PPOs are better for patients who already see a few doctors and want to stick with them.

Regardless of the plan design, customers should learn about a plan’s provider network before signing up. Check to see how many specialists are in a network or whether it includes the biggest health care systems in the region.

I’m traveling this summer. Will an EPO or HMO cover emergency care I may need on the road?

You’ll have coverage if a shark attacks you at the beach or car accident sends you to the emergency room. However, coverage may be limited for less-intense emergencies like a raging case of poison ivy, or a sinus infection.

Instead of heading to an urgent care clinic and paying the full, $100-plus bill for that visit, check first to see what your plan offers.