According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in four U.S. adults, including those with health insurance, struggle to pay their medical bills. Even more alarming, notes the Foundation, medical debt is the leading source of personal bankruptcy in the United States.

While rising health care costs are partially to blame for medical payment issues, high health care bills can sometimes be avoided through more informed health care shopping and decision-making. Unfortunately, most people don't think to shop for health care because they don't realize that health care prices can vary significantly amongst providers. And even for those who are aware of cost variations, they don't know how to attain or use the information needed to effectively comparison shop. As a result, they default to what they know, passively accepting whatever options are presented to them. 

The New Year is always associated with opportunities to reclaim control – whether that's control over our time, our health or our finances. Individuals, and the employers they receive insurance from, can take control of all three through strategic use of health care transparency and advocacy tools.

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