Sending Patient Accounts to Collections

Q. We have several patient accounts (due to no insurance, insurance termed, patient co-insurance) that are extremely high-dollar accounts. On most of them, the patients pay minimal monthly payments, e.g., $10 or $20. Some are even on “monthly budgets” set up long ago to pay these amounts. Can we legally turn these accounts over to collections to reduce our accounts receivable?

A. If you have a prior agreement, even a verbal agreement, with the patient to allow a minimal monthly payment, then you would not be entitled to turn the account over to a collection agency unless the patient failed to comply with the agreement. If, however, the patient has unilaterally decided to pay a very low monthly fee, then you may refer the account to collections.

Do you have a question about practice management, regulations, TMA membership, or other topics related to your practice? Remember, you can Ask TMA. You can find answers in the TMA website’s FAQs. Or, you can ask an information specialist in the TMA Knowledge Center by calling (800) 880-7955 or emailing

For most practices, looking at collection accounts is just the tip of the iceberg. A Billing and Collections Assessment from TMA Practice Consulting can show you the full picture of your practice’s billing and collection status. To learn more, contact TMA Practice Consulting at (800) 523-8776 or

NOTICE: This information is provided as a commentary on legal issues and is not intended to provide advice on any specific legal matter. This information should NOT be considered legal advice and receipt of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Office of the General Counsel of the Texas Medical Association provides this information with the express understanding that 1) no attorney-client relationship exists, 2) neither TMA nor its attorneys are engaged in providing legal advice and 3) that the information is of a general character. Although TMA has attempted to present materials that are accurate and useful, some material may be outdated and TMA shall not be liable to anyone for any inaccuracy, error or omission, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting therefrom. Any legal forms are only provided for the use of physicians in consultation with their attorneys. You should not rely on this information when dealing with personal legal matters; rather legal advice from retained legal counsel should be sought. 

Published Nov. 15, 2012


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