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Health Insurance Advice (Consultation)

The bickering over who will pay for what kind of health care continues.

But until then, most of us are wondering how much we personally should plan to spend for own health care. Whether youíre insured, or looking for insurance, the out-of-pocket bill can be more than you anticipate: Medical expenses, in fact, are the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.

There are several calculators for medical budgeting online, from Money-Zine, PayFlex and Health-Alliance. Or, you can go the old-fashioned way: sit down with a pen and paper and jot down the estimated cost of doctor visits, prescriptions, health-insurance copays, deductibles and premiums, etc. And budget some money for the unexpected.

Intuit, the keepers of TurboTax and Quicken budgeting software, even offer a health expense tracker for free. The tool boils down medical jargon, funnels bill paying and organizes medical expenses for tax season. It also calculates how much you should plan to pay on your own. We havenít given it a full test drive yet, but if you have, let us know how it went.

Keeping tabs on health care costs not only helps ease budgeting woes, but can help you trim your tax bills, as nonreimbursed health care costs are tax-deductible. Set aside receipts and records for things like copays for doctor visits, prescription costs or any other expenses that your insurance carrier doesnít pick up. Bankrate.com points out that the deduction is applicable only if your costs exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. At first blush, that seems like a high bar, but throw in expenses for a spouse and dependents, and you may well qualify. Talk to an accountant about what medical expenses you have and if they count toward the deduction.

Bankrate also has a nifty chart detailing some of the other overlooked health-related deductions. Among them: travel expenses to and from medical treatments, uninsured treatments (glasses, fir example) and dental expenses.

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