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How to bring sky-high health-care plan costs down to Earth

With more and more people being forced into health-care plans with high annual deductibles that can range from $2,000 to $6,000 and even $10,000 per family, it's important to know what you can do to control expenses.

Carolyn McClanahan, who is an M.D. and certified financial planner, is the founder and director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners. She says that in addition to cultivating basic healthy living habits, there are five specific things consumers can do to bring health-care costs down.

Health care costs
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First, understand your "health-care mind-set" — whether you like to go to the doctor a lot or not — and plan your finances accordingly. If you do see your physician often, consider McClanahan's second recommendation: Use other health-care resources. For example, many health plans offer free nursing hotlines, where you can get basic medical advice and care free of charge and minus an office visit.

Third, become what McClanahan calls an "empowered patient," choosing to work with a collaborative-minded physician who "works with you to help you utilize your health-care resources effectively."

A fourth cost-cutting tactic is to challenge your doctor when he or she orders a test. "They're not thinking about your pocketbook, but you are," McClanahan said. Be sure to ask how the recommended test will affect diagnosis and treatment.

Finally, make sure everyone covered under your family plan gets any major health-care needs addressed in a given calendar year. "Once you reach your out-of-pocket maximums, you don't have to pay any more for your health care," she said.

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