Fifty-six percent of those polled in a recent Aflac survey estimated that they waste $750 a year because of mistakes made with insurance benefits elections. As open enrollment season approaches, vow not to throw money away.

1. Know what's ahead. Expect employers to choose plans that require you to take more responsibility for the cost.

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2. Read the fine print. This year, employees will receive new, federally mandated "Summary of Benefits Coverage" forms that explain how benefits work and offer insight on out-of-pocket expenses. "Even if your payroll-deducted premium hasn't increased, your benefits may have changed," says Robin Gelburd, president of New York nonprofit FAIR Health. Ask about reimbursement levels for in- and out-of-network care and other cost sharing.

3. Consider change. Don't assume last year's plan is the best. "Ask yourself, is this still the best choice for me and my family?" says Jody Sevy, a New York vice president with Transamerica Employee Benefits.

4. Estimate costs. Calculate anticipated expenses before selecting a plan. "You may save hundreds of dollars," says Cynthia Weidner, vice president of H&W Consulting HighRoads in Woburn, Mass.

5. Shop smarter. "Enroll in a plan that only covers the services you need most, which may lower premiums," says Sara Garcia, a consumer specialist with

6. Don't miss the deadline. Says Weidner, "Doing nothing could cost you -- in higher premiums, lower coverage or missed opportunities to optimize your health care dollars."