By Graham Nicol, Esq., Health Care Risk Manager, Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist (Health Law)
Q: In Florida, what is the definition of debt collection? If I have a patient who owes me $100 can we call that patient and ask for payment?
A: Chapter 559 regulates consumer debt collection. There is a difference between a “consumer collection agency” and a “creditor.” Consumer collection agencies must register with the state, but the registration requirement does not apply to “an original creditor.”
As a dentist extending credit for dental care either yourself or through your practice (i.e., not through a bank, credit card or financial services company like CareCredit), you are an original creditor, not a consumer collection agency. So, if a patient owes you a debt of $100 for services rendered or as a deductible, then you can, in general, call and ask for the money as a creditor.
However, no person — it doesn’t matter whether you are the original creditor or not — may do any of the following 19 prohibited acts when collecting consumer debt:
- Pretend to be law enforcement.
- Threaten force or violence.
- Disclose the existence of a disputed debt to another so as to affect credit worthiness.
- Threaten to tell the debtor’s employer that you are owed money by one of their employees.
- Provide information that you know is false.
- Disclose information about the debt without also disclosing that the debtor disputes owing it if you know that they do.
- Communicate with the debtor or his family with such frequency as to harass them.
- Use profane, obscene, vulgar or willfully abusive language.
- Attempt to collect a debt that you know is not legitimate or assert that you have legal rights that you know you don’t have (a lien on their property).
- Simulate the judicial process.
- Simulate that you are an attorney at law by using law firm stationery or instruments that only attorneys are authorized to prepare.
- Orally communicate with a debtor that you are an attorney or work for one.
- Advertise, or threaten to advertise, for sale a debt as a means to enforce payment unless you have legal authority to do so.
- Refuse to identify yourself when asked to by the debtor.
- Mail a bill in an envelope or postcard with words on the outside calculated to embarrass the debtor.
- Communicate with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s time zone without the prior consent of the debtor.
- Communicate with a debtor if you know they are represented by an attorney.
- Cause a debtor to be charged for communications by collect telephone calls or telegram fees.
- Publish, or threaten to publish, individual names or any list of names of debtors, commonly known as a “deadbeat list,” to the public.
This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. If you have a specific concern or need legal advice regarding your dental practice, you should contact a qualified attorney.
By Stacey Prince-Troutman, Broad and Cassel Senior Counsel
You have worked tenaciously for the past 40 years to build your business and reputation in the community. Your business is a success, but recently, your passion for being involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and meeting with patients has dwindled. Instead, you dream of traveling more and spending time with family. You trust your younger associates to run the business while you are traveling and would likely sell the business to them once you retire. If you are in this situation, then now is the ideal time to formulate a business succession plan.
Planning to transition your business to your associates should start now, not when you’re three weeks away from retirement. An effective business succession plan takes years to successfully execute and should consider the following:
- Mentoring the next generation of leaders. Your associates should be given the opportunity to be “mentored” into transitioning from skilled practitioners to business owners. Cross-training is the key to ensuring a successful transition. Associates should be trained in managing staff, dealing with insurance companies, vendors, accounting practices and more.
- Obtaining a business valuation. You should retain a qualified business appraiser and accountant to determine the fair market value of the business. Once a valuation is obtained, a schedule for your payout should be discussed so that the associates will have the funds needed — at the appointed time — to acquire your business.
- Preparing an agreement. Once an agreement is reached, an experienced attorney should be retained to draft an agreement that provides for the transition of the business to the associates. In addition to including the basic deal points, a properly drafted agreement should include certain safeguards for breach, death and other contingencies.
- Updating your estate planning documents. It’s not unusual for your business to be one of your most significant assets, if not the most significant asset. Accordingly, you should update your estate planning documents to consider the receipt of your remaining interest in the business (or outstanding payments under the agreement) by your heirs following your death in the event you die before fully transitioning the business to your associates.
A proper business succession plan is crucial to the viability of your business after your departure, and there is much that goes into a well-structured and thoughtful plan. A qualified business appraiser, accountant and attorney make up the team that is an invaluable asset in this process — ultimately assisting in formulating a plan and overseeing its successful execution. As we kick off the New Year and plan for the future, this might make for a good resolution.
Stacey Prince-Troutman is Senior Counsel in the Orlando office of Broad and Cassel. She is a member of the firm’s Estate Planning and Trusts Practice Group and can be reached at email@example.com or 407.839.4200.
By Bob Macdonald, Florida PDMP Foundation Executive Director
As a licensed dentist, have you registered to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database yet? Florida’s version of the nationwide program is called the Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation, better known as E-FORCSE. The database allows dentists to:
- review complex prescribing for the elderly.
- guarantee new prescriptions will not negatively interact with existing prescriptions from other prescribers.
- confirm that patients do not need additional medicines or increased dosages to prevent unknown over-prescribing.
- prevent unknown over-prescribing, which will reduce excess prescription drugs in medicine cabinets — the highest source of prescription drug diversion.
- detect doctor-shopping, which may stop potential addiction and selling of drugs.
The state’s PDMP went into effect in 2009. Under the law establishing the program, all dispensers of Scheduled II-V drugs must enter prescription information in the database within seven days or it is a misdemeanor. The majority of dispensers under the law are pharmacists, although there are still some dispensing practitioners operating in Florida. Besides pharmacists, the law also allows for all licensed medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, dentists, podiatric physicians, ARNPs, physician assistants and optometrists to access the database for free to review patient information before prescribing any controlled substances for pain management. Law enforcement agencies also may access the database when investigating an active case of drug abuse or diversion.
Of a potential of 148,000 licensed Florida practitioners, about 30,000 have registered to use the database. Only about 700 dentists are signed up to access E-FORCSE, which is about 6 percent of all licensed dentists.
To date, the database has collected more than 130 million prescription records and is receiving about three million a month. E-FORCSE users have made more than 12 million queries for information. Of this total, dentists have made more than 12,000 contacts for records.
If you have a DEA license and regularly prescribe pain medication to patients, you should consider using the PDMP as part of your practice management office policy. To register to use the database, visit the program’s website under the Department of Health at www.e-forcse.com.
By Christine Mortham, FDA Membership Concierge
My journey with the Florida Dental Association (FDA) began a little over nine years ago when I joined the Governmental Affairs Office as the receptionist for an outstanding crew of lobbyists. Fast-forward to 2011 — I had the honor of being promoted to our headquarters office as the receptionist where I learned even more of what the FDA does for the dental profession. In 2013, the FDA went through a major transformation. The FDA welcomed Drew Eason as our new executive director (hooray for Drew!) who brought about a lot of opportunities for many. This is where the life of the membership concierge began.
The initial purpose of implementing the concierge benefit was to make sure that applicants felt welcome and began to experience the benefits of membership immediately. We also were in great need of making changes to how we interacted with our current members. Oftentimes, a constituent will call for details about membership before submitting an application. I’m always happy to speak to future members to explain why they need to be a member of the FDA. After the applicant becomes a member, the concierge personally welcomes the new member by mailing a welcome kit to them. Our welcome kit contains various brochures and publications that explain their member benefits as well as programs and opportunities that are available exclusively for members. The benefit of having a membership concierge has been so well-received that other state dental associations have inquired about implementing their own membership concierge!
FDA members are the best and we believe that you should be recognized! I’m always keeping an eye out for FDA members that are featured in local newspapers or online media for representing dentistry in a positive way — we are proud to have you as part of our family.
If you’re not sure of what benefits are available to you or need help accessing your benefits, you can count on me for assistance. Not only do I provide a warm welcome, I also assist in processing membership applications, provide dues quotations and take dues payment, as well as providing our privileged members with the necessary information as they begin their retirement. I’m also tasked with other projects that require the member’s perspective of the FDA and are based on your questions, comments and suggestions, so please feel free to let me know how we are doing — I’m all ears!
I enjoy every moment of being here at the FDA and look forward to speaking with many of you. I’m always glad to help wherever I can!
Have a question about your membership? Contact Christine at 850.350.7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.