What to do: Make sure there’s a program specifically targeted to your condition, whether it’s osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or some other chronic condition – and that it includes personal attention from (and access to) a trained medical provider.

Tip: Look for a plan that keeps electronic health records (EHRs); that’s usually a good indicator of an integrated, comprehensive approach to your care.

4) Access to the specialists you want

Why it’s important: Getting a referral to the right specialist can make a critical difference at several key stages. For starters, because there are many types of arthritis and many treatment options, it’s important to be correctly diagnosed and treated by someone who knows your specific condition. That’s your best chance to prevent joint deformity and disability.

Also, having access to highly competent specialists, such as a rheumatologist, can help monitor and treat your condition at every step.

What to do: To gauge the quality of the specialists that belong to the health plan you’re considering, ask a doctor you trust to look over the list of arthritis specialists, physical and occupational therapists, and surgeons included – even if you don’t need one today.

Tip: One key to good access to specialists, says Jinnett, is to choose a good primary care physician – someone who won’t block access to specialists but will treat you as a whole person and steer you to the right people. “You want your primary care doc to know you better than anyone,” she adds.

5) 24-hour hotline with clinical expertise available

Why it’s important: Being able to talk to a trained medical provider any time of day can help you make critical decisions quickly and conveniently about things like drug side effects or pain.

What to do: When comparing plans, be sure that the 24-hour-nurse support provided is a person and not just a collection of recordings on specific topics – and that access doesn’t involve going to an emergency room. (A plan that offers access to an urgent care facility, however, is a good thing.)

Tip: To judge quality of the 24-hour hotline, ask someone in your human resources department or the plan’s representative to describe exactly how it works.

For more information: If you have questions about any health plan you’re considering – including specific questions about caps on physical or occupational therapy or drug coverage, talk to someone in your company's human resources department or the plan’s representative.