You're not alone if you feel a bit overwhelmed during open enrollment -- the annual season when employees sign up for health insurance plans and other benefits at work.

A recent survey from Aetna found that Americans rank choosing health insurance benefits as the second most difficult major life decision -- harder than parenting, buying a car, making decisions about medical tests or treatments. It was also considered more challenging than choosing home, renters or auto insurance. Only saving for retirement ranked higher in difficulty.

Most of the consumers said choosing a plan is tough because the information is confusing, complicated and often conflicting.

If the sheaf of materials about your company's health plans have you scratching your head, take a breath and consider these questions when comparing plans:

1. How much will the plan cost my family?

Find out how much you'll pay out of pocket for each medical insurance plan, including your portion of the premium; the deductible; co-payments for office visits, urgent care and emergency room services; coinsurance; and prescription drug co-payments.

Don't know the difference between a deductible and a co-payment? Visit insurance company websites, most of which feature glossaries of basic health insurance terms.

Think about how you use health care services when you calculate costs. Paying a huge premium for a plan with low co-payments doesn't make sense if you rarely visit the doctor.

2. What does the plan cover?

Read the fine print about what the plans cover and what they exclude. Is the plan "grandfathered?" Grandfathered plans are exempt from some of the health reform requirements, such as fully covering preventive care. Choose a plan that offers the benefits important to you and your family.

3. Are my doctors in the network?

You'll pay more out of pocket to see doctors outside a health insurance plan's preferred network of providers. Make sure the plan's network includes your doctors, as well as a good selection of specialists and high-quality hospitals.

4. What is the health insurance company's reputation?

Ask around about how easy the health plan is to work with -- the billing folks at your doctor's office might be a good source of inside information.

Know the enrollment deadline, and give yourself plenty of time to research. Most companies offer information sessions about health plans and make available insurance representatives and human resources personnel to field questions. Don't be shy about asking for help.