a. If, upon the discharge of a patient from the hospital, the patient's account has not been paid in full by the patient or responsible party or by health insurance, or it is unlikely that the patient's account will be paid in full by the patient or responsible party or by health insurance, as identified pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection c. of section 8 of P.L.1991, c.187 (C.26:2H-18.31), and the patient or responsible party is likely to have assets such as those identified pursuant to paragraph (4) of subsection c. of section 8 of P.L.1991, c.187 (C.26:2H-18.31), a hospital shall follow the collection procedure pursuant to this section unless the patient's aggregate outstanding balance is less than $250 or unless and until the cost of collecting the account exceeds the patient's outstanding balance.
b. The hospital shall commence the collection procedure within two weeks after a patient's discharge from the hospital or date of service at the hospital.
The collection procedure shall include:
(1) At least three billing statements, each sent at intervals of no longer than four weeks, shall be sent to the patient's or responsible party's mailing address.
At least two collection follow-up letters shall follow the three billing statements. The collection follow-up letters shall be sent to the patient's or responsible party's mailing address at an interval of no longer than three weeks. Each collection follow-up letter shall state the amount due and owing, the collection history on the account and the hospital's intention to proceed with legal action if the outstanding balance is not paid in full or, in the alternative, the patient or responsible party fails to enter into payment arrangements with the hospital. Each collection follow-up letter shall request a partial payment of the outstanding balance in the patient's account as the minimum amount due and shall offer to establish a payment schedule for the remainder of the outstanding balance in the patient's account based upon the patient's or responsible party's ability to pay. The letter shall clearly indicate the name of a person for the patient or responsible party to contact, and a telephone number for the patient or responsible party to call, in order to arrange such a payment schedule.
A hospital is not required to comply with the requirements of sending a third billing statement or two collection follow-up letters if mail has twice been returned to the hospital, and hospital personnel, despite reasonable efforts, are unable to determine a new mailing address for the patient or responsible party;
(2) At least three attempts to reach the patient or responsible party by telephone shall be made if hospital personnel have determined a residence or business telephone number for the patient or responsible party. If hospital personnel are not able to make telephone contact with the patient or responsible party after three attempts, the hospital shall send a collection telegram;
(3) Legal action to collect the amount due and owing on the patient's account shall be taken; and
(4) The hospital shall request the department, on behalf of the fund, to request the Department of the Treasury to apply or cause to be applied the income tax refund or homestead rebate due the patient or responsible party, or both the income tax refund and homestead rebate, or so much of either or both as is necessary to recover the amount due and owing on the patient's account, pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1981, c.239 (C.54A:9-8.1), for which purpose the patient's outstanding balance shall be considered a debt to the fund and the fund shall be considered an agency of State government.
c. Unless the cost of completing the procedure, in part or in its entirety, exceeds the outstanding balance on a patient's account, a hospital shall complete the procedures in paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection b. of this section before submitting appropriate documentation and requesting from the commissioner that the hospital be reimbursed on a delinquent account from the fund.
If any payment on a delinquent account is received as a result of compliance with the procedures in subsection b. of this section and the hospital has already received payment from the fund, the amount of money the hospital is entitled to receive from the fund shall be adjusted pursuant to procedures established by the commission.
d. This section shall not apply to a patient who: qualifies for charity care pursuant to rules and regulations adopted by the commissioner; is found to be indigent by a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to the provisions of chapter 4 of Title 30 of the Revised Statutes; or qualifies for care under the federal Hill-Burton program pursuant to 42 U.S.C. s. 291 et seq.
e. The commissioner shall adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this section and section 8 of P.L.1991, c.187 (C.26:2H-18.31); except that nothing in this section or section 8 of P.L.1991, c.187 (C.26:2H-18.31) shall be construed to prohibit the commissioner from adopting rules and regulations that are more stringent than the provisions of this section and section 8 of P.L.1991, c.187 (C.26:2H-18.31).
L.1991,c.187,s.11; per s.86 as amended by 1992, c.160, s.27, expired December 31, 1992.