The cost of health care in America is simply staggering!  According to Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2011 the average annual premium for employer-sponsored health insurance was $15,073 for family coverage, of which the employee paid $4,129.  That's approximately $344 coming out take home pay each month.  But it gets worse.  CNNMoney reports that in 2012, the cost to cover the typical family of four will approach $20,000. Though no one expects the cost of high-quality health care to be cheap, no one wants to pay such a huge premium each month to cover them in case they do become ill.

While there are many reasons the cost of health care in America is exorbitant compared with other industrialized nations, there are some basic things everyone can do to save money on medical bills both now and in the future. 

Tip #1 Empower yourself!  Knowledge truly is power, especially when it comes to your health, and quite possibly your life.  Prepare for each and every visit to the doctor before you step foot in the office.  When you are sitting on a cold examining room table scared, cold, wRITEand in pain (and fuming that your doctor is running an hour behind schedule) you may not be able to recall all the important information you need to share with your physician. If you only have a 3-4 minute face-to-face encounter with him, chances are you will forget or overlook some potentially important details, so think thru PhysicianCredit: iStockPhotowhat you are going to say before you say it.  Practice makes perfect.  A good, concise historical account of your present symptoms can go a very long way in helping your doctor diagnose your right on the first visit, with few unnecessary, expensive tests.

Tip #2 Use generic medications.  You have undoubted heard this advice over and over again, but there is a reason for that.  Generics do work.  They may not conme with the fancy advertisements that their brand name alternatives do, but in the vast majoriy of cases they work just as well for a fraction of the cost.  Why should you pay for expensive television commercials and pretty packaging when the old tried and true generics have been out for along time and will save you a bundle.  That is why they are available in generic form.  When they were the new wonder drug on the market, they too were expensive.  AFter several years, they lost their patents which allowed ohter pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the same drug and compete for market share.  As long as a company can prove to the FDA that their version is a safe and effective alternative, they have the legal right to produce and sell their product. Something else to keep in mind; you often hear of drug recalls or law firms which run commercials to call them if you have suffered from some specific condition while taking a medication.  You can count on those ads being run for the newer drugs with a shorter track record.  Those drugs that have been on the  market for decades already have ...about side effects.

Tip #3 Keep a personal copy of your medical records.  Employers change, insureres change, doctors move in and out of panels, Keep a personal copy of your medical records.  Employers change, insurers change, doctors opt in and out of panels, all the while, your medical records become spread over a larger and larger area.  If your physician dies or relocates, your records can legally be destroyed after a predefined period of time, and important information about your medical past could literally be lost forever, which could mean repeating tests that have already been done, and a delayed, or even missed diagnosis.

Tip #4

Ask your employer about high-deductible health plans or HSAs (Health Savings Accounts).  If you are generally healthy, chances are you will come out ahead by paying a lower monthly premium in exchange for a higher deductible should you become ill.  HSAs are not for everyone, but they are becoming more and more popular due to their ability to significantly decrease the overall amount an individual pays for his health care.  Even if your employer does not offer health insurance, you may obtain a plan on your own. A simple internet search is a good place to begin.

There are many ways in which an individual can lower his medical bills.   These are but the tip of the iceberg, but with the climate of health care in America, every little chip of ice counts.