The Dental Shopper Blog

Dealing with patients who do not pay

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Important facts you should know when collecting overdue fees By Douglas Pettibone


Every medical and dental practice has to deal with patients who do not pay. If it doesn't deal with such patients, the costs will simply be passed on to other patients--or the practice may simply suffer or fold. Yet the very real dental and medical collections legal issues mean you should think carefully before reminding your patients to pay up.

In the end, you may very well be better off outsourcing your medical or dental accounts receivables to one of the new medical and dental collection agency/accounts payable processing centers. According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), dental billing notices fall under essentially the same regulations as a mega-bank's car loan collections.

Real-World Medical and Dental Debt Collection Law Quandaries

Anne, a secretary at ABC Dental Associates, calls up a patient who just turned 18, to remind him of an outstanding copayment. The patient's mother answers the telephone. Should Anne:

1. Take the issue of the co-payment up with the patient's mother?

2. Leave a message with the patient's mother to remind the patient of the outstanding co-payment?

3. Leave a message for the patient to call the ABC Dental Associates back?

4. Say she will call back later and quickly hang up?

All but one of the four options above will be a violation of federal debt collections law. Can you guess which one?

The correct course of action is option number 3. Why are the others illegal?

Look at each of the options above:

1. It is illegal to disclose a debt to a third party.

2. See number one; remember that messages regarding a debt are essentially disclosures to a third party.

3. This is the only suitable course of action.

4. The FDCPA requires all creditors to identify themselves when making a call. While you can't say what you are calling about, you must say the name of your business before hanging up.

Not ready for your medical or dental practice to become a law practice? You can get around  dental collection law matters by outsourcing the entire job to a professional medical or dental accounts receivable processor or medical collection agency. This option also has the benefit of saving your staff a lot of work.

After all, not only is your dental practice not a law practice, it's not an accounts department, either.

Tel: (714) 730-9091
Fax: (714) 245-7324

Please Note: Items on this blog are not necessarily the opinion of The Dental Shopper or its staff. These items may be controversial and are here for the purpose of free discussion of ideas and concepts.
Dr. Lon Uso, owner.

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