I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that you probably wouldn't buy a house or car without comparison shopping online. Heck, you probably wouldn't buy a $70 pair of sneakers without shopping around. Yet many of us think nothing of moving forward with a dental or medical procedure with no sense of what the average going rate is, and no true grasp of what we're ultimately paying at the end of a running stream of bills and "this is not a bill" notices.

Americans' attitude toward health care is stunningly laissez-faire when you consider the average family spends $3,000 a year on it beyond their monthly premiums -- too big a cost to overlook.

One of the most costly mistakes? Assuming that using your medical or dental insurance -- if you're lucky enough to have it -- is always the best way to go. Depending on your premium and where you are in the calendar year, it may make better financial sense to forgo insurance and pursue a self-pay rate to lower the net out-of-pocket cost. For DailyFinance's full story on the subject, see How to Negotiate Medical Expenses.

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