Money Fix: Saving on health care

Stopping smoking is one of the top things

Stopping smoking is one of the top things that will stretch health dollars. Women smokers pay 22 percent more on average for their monthly health insurance premiums, and men who smoke pay 13 percent more, experts say. (Credit: AP, 2000)

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With New Year's resolutions to cut spending, health care costs -- which continue to climb -- will be atop the nip and tuck list.

Here's how to stretch your health care dollar.

1. Quit smoking. If you buy your own health insurance, saying you are not a smoker on your application is no small matter. Women smokers pay 22 percent more on average for their monthly health insurance premiums, and men who smoke pay 13 percent more, according to Keith Mendonsa, a consumer specialist with eHealthInsurance.com.

2. Lose weight. If you have a healthy body mass index (BMI), you'll also pay less. Know, too, that many employers are now rewarding employees with money, gift cards and other goodies for joining smoking cessation programs and otherwise adopting healthy habits.

3. Be proactive. Most degenerative diseases are either preventable or can be delayed by years or decades. "They are caused or perpetuated by stress and poor diet. Get at least eight hours of sleep, reduce stress, eat six to eight pieces of fruits and vegetables daily," says Dr. Michael Wald, of Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco. Drink less alcohol and pop a multivitamin, too.

4. Avoid costly mistakes. Get a second opinion to help avoid misdiagnosis. From 15 percent to 28 percent of medical cases are misdiagnosed,  according to Evan Falchuk, vice chairman of Best Doctors, a global health company in Boston. The Institute of Medicine calculated that in 2009 alone, the U.S. wasted more than one-third of the $2.5 trillion dollars spent on health care. Of the approximately $765 billion wasted, much can be tied to diagnostic error, the IOM said.