The last thing anyone wants to deal with after a serious illness or injury is a mountain of debt and repeated calls from bill collectors. Yet that's the scenario in which many patients find themselves. Patients can avoid some of those headaches and minimize the risk they'll need to file for bankruptcy protection. To do that, they must discuss costs and payment options early on with their hospital or medical provider, and be sure that they have tapped into any available discounts and financial assistance. But new standards, coming from government and the hospital and bill collection industries, should make resolving disputes and paying bills easier and fairer for patients, experts say.