131E-91. Fair billing and collections practices for hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities.

(a) All hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities licensed pursuant to this Chapter shall, upon request of the patient, present an itemized list of charges to all discharged patients detailing in language comprehensible to an ordinary layperson the specific nature of the charges or expenses incurred by the patient. Patient bills that are not itemized shall include notification to the patient of the right to request, free of charge, an itemized bill. A patient may request an itemized list of charges at any time within three years after the date of discharge or so long as the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility, a collections agency, or another assignee of the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility asserts the patient has an obligation to pay the bill. Each hospital and ambulatory surgical facility shall establish a method for patients to inquire about or dispute a bill.

(b) If a patient has overpaid the amount due to the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility, whether as the result of insurance coverage, patient error, health care facility billing error, or other cause, and the overpayment is not in dispute or on appeal, the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility shall provide the patient with a refund within 45 days of receiving notice of the overpayment.

(c) A hospital or ambulatory surgical facility shall not bill insured patients for charges that would have been covered by their insurance had the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility submitted the claim or other information required to process the claim within the allotted time requirements of the insurer.

(d) Hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities shall abide by the following reasonable collections practices:

(1) A hospital or ambulatory surgical facility shall not refer a patient's unpaid bill to a collections agency, entity, or other assignee during the pendency of a patient's application for charity care or financial assistance under the hospital's or ambulatory surgical facility's charity care or financial assistance policies.

(2) A hospital or ambulatory surgical facility shall provide a patient with a written notice that the patient's bill will be subject to collections activity at least 30 days prior to the referral being made.

(3) A hospital or ambulatory surgical facility that contracts with a collections agency, entity, or other assignee shall require the collections agency, entity, or other assignee to inform the patient of the hospital's or ambulatory surgical facility's charity care and financial assistance policies when engaging in collections activity.

(4) A hospital or ambulatory surgical facility shall require a collections agency, entity, or other assignee to obtain the written consent of the hospital or ambulatory surgical facility prior to the collections agency, entity, or other assignee filing a lawsuit to collect the debt.

(5) For debts arising from the provision of care by a hospital or ambulatory surgical center, the doctrine of necessaries as it existed at common law shall apply equally to both spouses, except where they are permanently living separate and apart, but shall in no event create any liability between the spouses as to each other. No lien arising out of a judgment for a debt owed a hospital or ambulatory surgical facility under this section shall attach to the judgment debtors' principal residence, or, if the land upon which the principal residence is located is greater than five acres, then no lien shall attach to the judgment debtors' principal residence and the surrounding five acres, held by them as tenants by the entireties or that was held by them as tenants by the entireties prior to the death of either spouse where the tenancy terminated as a result of the death of either spouse.

(6) For debts arising from the provision of care by a hospital or ambulatory surgical center to a minor, there shall be no execution on or otherwise forced sale of the principal residence of the custodial parent or parents for a judgment obtained for the outstanding debt until such time as the minor is either no longer residing with the custodial parent or parents or until the minor reaches the age of majority, whichever occurs first.

(e) The Commission shall adopt rules to ensure that this section is properly implemented. The Department shall not issue or renew a license under this Article unless the applicant has demonstrated that the requirements of this subsection are being met. (1991, c. 310, s. 1; 2013-382, s. 13.1; 2013-393, s. 2.)