The U.S. health care system has been a hot button topic for several years now. Its importance has only increased with the arrival of a new executive administration in Washington D.C. and the promises it made on the campaign trail. But regardless of how the issue is used as a political football, to many Illinois residents, how the system works, or rather, doesn’t can be a very personal problem.

Being human brings along with it the susceptibility to injury and illness. Because most of us can expect to need medical intervention at some point in our lives, it is reasonable to think that we will need to pay for medical expenses from time to time as well. Unfortunately, not all Illinois residents can afford, or even have the option to purchase, health insurance that will defray medical costs sufficiently so as to allow the patient to reasonably pay them off. Because of this, many people will fall into a hole of medical debt from which they have trouble emerging.

There may be a way to minimize this occurrence for some people, however. Many hospitals and health care systems have programs in place designed to help people with limited means or with no health insurance to be treated without racking up huge medical debt. For example many Illinois counties that operate hospitals, such as Cook County, have patient financial assistance programs that can help some people who feel they will not be able to pay their bills. Private hospitals may also have such programs, and patients should consider checking with a hospital’s financial counseling department for information.

Unfortunately, many people will need to accrue their medical debt first and worry about paying it later. Further, there are those who may not qualify for financial assistance, but still have huge debts they are unable to pay. In these cases, such patients may want to consider options such as Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which may be able to discharge unsecured medical debt.