2006 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare; Judiciary, Division B
By: Senator(s) Dawkins
AN ACT TO PROVIDE CERTAIN CONDITIONS ON THE COLLECTION OF DEBT BY COLLECTION AGENTS FOR LICENSED HOSPITALS FOR THE COST OF PROVIDING SERVICES TO UNINSURED INDIVIDUALS; TO REQUIRE CERTAIN NOTICES TO BE ISSUED BY SUCH HOSPITAL COLLECTION AGENCIES; TO REQUIRE CERTAIN ANNUAL REPORTS TO BE DEVELOPED BY HOSPITALS REGARDING DEBT COLLECTION AND FILED WITH THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; TO AMEND SECTION 75-17-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT IN THE CASE OF DEBT ARISING OUT OF HOSPITAL SERVICES, PREJUDGMENT AND POSTJUDGMENT INTEREST IS DISCRETIONARY WITH THE COURT; TO AMEND SECTION 85-3-21, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE A HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION FOR ANY MONEY JUDGMENT ARISING OUT OF SERVICES PROVIDED AT A HOSPITAL; TO AMEND SECTION 85-3-1, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE A TANGIBLE PROPERTY EXEMPTION FOR ANY MONEY JUDGMENT ARISING OUT OF SERVICES PROVIDED AT A HOSPITAL; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) As used in this section:
(a) "Cost of providing services" means a hospital's published charges at the time of billing, multiplied by the hospital's most recent relationship of costs to charges as taken from the hospital's most recently available annual financial filing with the State Department of Health.
(b) "Hospital" means an institution licensed by the State Department of Health pursuant to Sections 41-9-1 through 41-9-35.
(c) "Poverty income guidelines" means the poverty income guidelines issued from time to time by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
(d) "Uninsured patient" means any person who is liable for one or more hospital charges whose income is at or below two hundred fifty percent (250%) of the poverty income guidelines who (i) has applied and been denied eligibility for any medical or health care coverage provided under the Medicaid program due to failure to satisfy income or other eligibility requirements, and (ii) is not eligible for coverage for hospital services under the Medicare program, or under any Medicaid or health insurance program of any other nation, state, territory or commonwealth, or under any other governmental or privately sponsored health or accident insurance or benefit program, including, but not limited to, workers' compensation and awards, settlements or judgments arising from claims, suits or proceedings involving motor vehicle accidents or alleged negligence.
(2) No hospital that has provided health care services to an uninsured patient may collect from the uninsured patient more than the cost of providing services.
(3) No hospital shall refer to a collection agent or initiate an action against an individual patient or such patient's estate to collect fees arising from care provided at a hospital on or after October 1, 2006, unless the hospital has made a determination that such individual is an uninsured patient, as defined in subsection (1) of this section, and is not eligible for any free or reduced price hospital medical services. Nothing in this section shall affect a hospital's ability to initiate an action against an individual patient or such patient's estate to collect coinsurance, deductibles or fees arising from care provided at a hospital where such coinsurance, deductibles or fees may be eligible for reimbursement through awards, settlements or judgments arising from claims, suits or proceedings. In addition, nothing in this section shall affect a hospital's ability to initiate an action against an individual patient or such patient's estate where payment or reimbursement has been made, or likely is to be made, directly to the patient.
(4) Each collection agent engaged in collecting a debt from a patient arising from services provided at a hospital shall provide written notice to such patient as to whether the hospital deems the patient an insured patient or an uninsured patient as defined in subsection (1) of this section and the reasons for such determination.
(5) If, at any point in the debt collection process, whether before or after the entry of judgment, a hospital, a consumer collection agency acting on behalf of the hospital, an attorney representing the hospital or any employee or agent of the hospital becomes aware that a debtor from whom the hospital is seeking payment for services rendered receives information that the debtor is eligible for free or reduced price hospital services, or any other program which would result in the elimination of liability for the debt or reduction in the amount of such liability, the hospital, collection agency, attorney, employee or agent shall promptly discontinue collection efforts and refer the collection file to the hospital for determination of such eligibility. The collection effort shall not resume until such determination is made.
(6) On or before January 1, 2007, and annually thereafter, each hospital shall file with the State Department of Health a debt collection report that includes (a) whether the hospital uses a collection agent to assist with debt collection, (b) the name of any collection agent used, (c) the hospital's processes and policies for assigning a debt to a collection agent and for compensating such collection agent for services rendered, and (d) the recovery rate on accounts assigned to collection agents, exclusive of Medicare accounts, in the most recent hospital fiscal year.
SECTION 2. Section 75-17-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
75-17-7. All judgments or decrees founded on any sale or contract shall bear interest at the same rate as the contract evidencing the debt on which the judgment or decree was rendered. All other judgments or decrees shall bear interest at a per annum rate set by the judge hearing the complaint from a date determined by such judge to be fair but in no event prior to the filing of the complaint. In the case of a debt arising out of services provided at a hospital, prejudgment and postjudgment interest shall be discretionary with the court, and in no event shall be more than five percent (5%).
SECTION 3. Section 85-3-21, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
85-3-21. Every citizen of this state, male or female, being a householder shall be entitled to hold exempt from seizure or sale, under execution or attachment, the land and buildings owned and occupied as a residence by him, or her, but the quantity of land shall not exceed one hundred sixty (160) acres, nor the value thereof, inclusive of improvements, save as hereinafter provided, the sum of Seventy-five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00), or in the case of a money judgment arising out of services provided at a hospital, to the value of One Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($150,000.00); provided, however, that in determining this value, existing encumbrances on such land and buildings, including taxes and all other liens, shall first be deducted from the actual value of such land and buildings. But husband or wife, widower or widow, over sixty (60) years of age, who has been an exemptionist under this section, shall not be deprived of such exemption because of not residing therein.
SECTION 4. Section 85-3-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
85-3-1. There shall be exempt from seizure under execution or attachment:
(a) Tangible personal property of the following kinds selected by the debtor, not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) in cumulative value, or in the case of a money judgment arising out of services provided at a hospital, not exceeding Twenty Thousand Dollars ($20,000.00):
(i) Household goods, wearing apparel, books, animals or crops;
(ii) Motor vehicles;
(iii) Implements, professional books or tools of the trade;
(iv) Cash on hand;
(v) Professionally prescribed health aids;
(vi) Any item of tangible personal property worth less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00).
Household goods, as used in this paragraph (a) means clothing, furniture, appliances, one (1) radio and one (1) television, one (1) firearm, one (1) lawnmower, linens, china, crockery, kitchenware, and personal effects (including wedding rings) of the debtor and his dependents; however, works of art, electronic entertainment equipment (except one (1) television and one (1) radio), jewelry (other than wedding rings), and items acquired as antiques are not included within the scope of the term "household goods." This paragraph (a) shall not apply to distress warrants issued for collection of taxes due the state or to wages described in Section 85-3-4.
(b) (i) The proceeds of insurance on property, real and personal, exempt from execution or attachment, and the proceeds of the sale of such property.
(ii) Income from disability insurance.
(c) All property, real, personal and mixed, for the collection or enforcement of any order or judgment, in whole or in part, issued by any court for civil or criminal contempt of said court; expressly excepted herefrom are such orders or judgments for the payment of alimony, separate maintenance and child support actions.
(d) All property in this state, real, personal and mixed, for the satisfaction of a judgment or claim in favor of another state or political subdivision of another state for failure to pay that state's or that political subdivision's income tax on benefits received from a pension or other retirement plan. As used in this paragraph (d), "pension or other retirement plan" includes:
(i) An annuity, pension, or profit-sharing or stock bonus or similar plan established to provide retirement benefits for an officer or employee of a public or private employer or for a self-employed individual;
(ii) An annuity, pension, or military retirement pay plan or other retirement plan administered by the United States; and
(iii) An individual retirement account.
(e) One (1) mobile home, trailer, manufactured housing, or similar type dwelling owned and occupied as the primary residence by the debtor, not exceeding a value of Twenty Thousand Dollars ($20,000.00); in determining this value, existing encumbrances on said dwelling, including taxes and all other liens, shall first be deducted from the actual value of said dwelling. A debtor is not entitled to the exemption of a mobile home as personal property who claims a homestead exemption under Section 85-3-21, and the exemption shall not apply to collection of delinquent taxes under Sections 27-41-101 through 27-41-109.
(f) Assets held in, or monies payable to the participant or beneficiary from, whether vested or not, (i) a pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus or similar plan or contract established to provide retirement benefits for the participant or beneficiary and qualified under Section 401(a), 403(a), or 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code (or corresponding provisions of any successor law), including a retirement plan for self-employed individuals qualified under one of such enumerated sections, (ii) an eligible deferred compensation plan described in Section 457(b) of the Internal Revenue Code (or corresponding provisions of any successor law) or (iii) an individual retirement account or an individual retirement annuity within the meaning of Section 408 of the Internal Revenue Code (or corresponding provisions of any successor law), including a simplified employee pension plan.
(g) Nothing in this section shall in any way affect the rights or remedies of the holder or owner of a statutory lien or voluntary security interest.
SECTION 5. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006.