A $5,000 bill from your doctor can be more terrifying than any procedure. More often than not, these bills come as a complete surprise. And increasingly they're causing severe financial stress for Americans, with medical expenses surpassing both credit card debt and unpaid mortgages as the leading cause of bankruptcy filings. In some cases, the charges are unavoidable and the services performed may very well have been life saving. But with health care costs continuing to rise, it's important for consumers to realize just how much more control they have over their spending.

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