New Law in Utah for Health Care Providers Assigning Accounts for Collections

In March 2017 Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law HB 128, which implements new requirements on health care providers on what they have to do before sending any accounts to a 3rd party collection agency, like American Management Services, or reporting any delinquent bills to a credit bureau. The law requires that healthcare providers may not send any unpaid patient bills to collections or report them to a credit bureau without following the new Utah notification requirement.

Under the new law, once the time has expired for an insurer to determine its obligation to pay a claim without penalty (or once Medicare determines its liability for a claim), healthcare providers can send the patient the required notice.

The new requirements are as follows:

  • Healthcare providers set the date by which the bill must be paid (the due date).   It must be at least 45 days after the notice is sent to the patient or, for Medicare beneficiaries, at least 60 days after the notice.
  • The notice must state:
    • The amount the patient owes;
    • The due date;
    • That if the patient doesn’t pay the bill on time, you may use the services of a collection agency or make a report to a credit bureau; and that each referral to collections or report to a credit bureau may negatively impact the patient’s credit score.
  • The notice must be sent by:
    • Certified mail with return receipt requested
    • Priority mail
    • Text message

If you plan to use the option of texting patients about their bills, you should be aware that federal law (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) imposes some restrictions on calls or texts to mobile numbers.   Generally, if patients give you their number they consent to your calls or texts, including for debt collection, unless they specify otherwise.   You could get in trouble if you give patients the impression that you will not communicate with them on their mobile number.

DOPL (Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing) can fine you up to $500 each time you violate these requirements.   The fine can be waived if the patient pays and you show DOPL you have mitigated and reversed any damage to the patient you caused by the violation (generally, this can be done by simply calling the credit bureau). The fine can also be waived if the patient doesn’t pay within 120 days of your referral to collections or report to a credit bureau.

H.B. 128 Health Care Debt Collection Amendments