Health insurance isnt only about basic coverage. From 24-hour nurse hotlines to medical coaching, the nations insurers may offer more perks than consumers realize.  

Health insurers are your partner in health care, says Christine Leyden, vice president and general manager of the client services division at URAC, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that promotes health-care quality. Insurers can be a resource for the consumers.

Whether its a large-scale national insurer or a regional health insurance company, consumers can get a lot of perks, many of which come at no additional costs under a plan, if they know to look for them.

Keith Mendonsa, consumer specialist for eHealthInsurance.com, lists anurse hotline, a free and very helpful perk that consumers often underutilize. Germs dont adhere to typical work hours causing people to come down with an illness on the weekend or after the doctors office is closed. But not all is lost: Most insurance companies provide their users a 24-hour hotline that offers medical tips and advice.  Instead of rushing someone to the emergency room and paying $1,200 you can call the hotline and wait to the morning to see a doctor, says Mendonsa.

Aegis Administrative Services, a Chicago insurer offers a program called Teleadoc, which is similar to a nurse hotline, but it is manned by a licensed physician. According to Sam Cozzo, a director at Aegis Administrative Services, the programs cost varies by plan tyes. He says Teleadoc could be a valuable way to save time and money from avoiding an  office visit for a minor problem.

In addition to offering a 24-hour hotline, a majority of insurers offer programs for stress, weight loss and smoking cessation, says Mendonsa at eHealthInsurance.com, noting that most insurers require a co-pay to attend these sorts of meetings.  Health companies are stressing preventive care, she says. Preventive care promotes healthiness, which means less medical bills in the future. Its a win win for both parties.

According to Leyden at URAC, insurers are also offering pharmacy benefits management programs geared toward consumers that take multiple medications. Under these plans, a patients medicine is reviewed to find alternative options or to ensure they arent taking unnecessary medicines. Insurers also offer case managers for patients that are very ill or have a trauma to help the family, says Leyden.

Rewards programs are relatively new offerings from insurers, but they are growing in popularity. The programs offer incentives for a range of health-eating habits like losing weight or quit smoking. According to Mendonsa, employees will be awarded points for reaching goals that can be reseeded for things like gift cards or plane tickets.

 Mendonsa says another perk thats getting more use is the deductible being lowered every year a plan member doesnt reach the threshold.  For example, a consumer that has a $5,000 deductible but doesnt hit that limit in one year will see that deductible decrease by 20% in the next year. If the lower deductible isnt reached in the third year it would be lowered more.  Health insurers are rewarding people for being healthy and for not requiring expensive medical bills and coverage, says Mendonsa.

Health insurers are also a wealth of knowledge for consumers looking for information regarding preventive care, illnesses and treatment. Many of the major insurers have searchable online databases containing medical information. 

For those not use to surfing the Web, all of the perks are laid out for consumers when they first get their benefits package in the mail or at work. While its not riveting reading, Cozzo at Aegis says consumers need to go through it. 

If you dont read it there might be seven or eight perks in there that you didnt know about, says Cozzo.  He says to go over the plan material and to ask questions. Most carriers have perks people are not aware of.