Editor’s Corner October 2019

Patient Overpayments and Credit Balances

Hopefully by now you’re aware of the new TDA Sound Byte Podcast, in which the TDA staff tackle interesting and relevant topics that affect how we practice (www.tda.org/Member-Resources/TDA-SoundByte, or available on your favorite podcast app).  In Episode Two, Lee Ann Johnson, Director of Member Services, and Diane Rhodes, Senior Policy Manager, discuss the topic of patient overpayments and credit balances. Check out the podcast, it’s only about ten minutes long, but the information was so valuable that I thought I would highlight the conversation here for our members.  Special thanks as always to Diane Rhodes with TDA for her immense knowledge on these topics. 

If a patient has made an overpayment or has a credit balance, then that money obviously belongs to the patient.  It happens all of the time and is usually no big deal; the practice just writes the patient a refund check and everyone is happy.  But what if the amount is fairly small and it gets overlooked. Keeping patient credit balances in the practice can be considered “Conversion of Property,” a.k.a. stealing, and all refunds due the patient are due within 30 days of discovery.  This topic falls under the Unclaimed Property law of the state. Business owners are required to determine by March 1 of every year if they are “holders” of potentially unclaimed property.  In our case, do we owe any of our patients a refund? Now, in 99% of our cases, this should simply be a matter of giving the patient the refund.  But what if the patient had moved or passed away? By law, we are required to notify, or attempt to notify, the patient that they have a credit balance by May 1, and these “due diligence” notices are required to be in writing for any amount over $250.  If the patient cannot be located after a period of 3 years (and you must keep trying every year), then the credit amount is now considered “abandoned property.”  If you do determine that you are in possession of abandoned property, then you are required by July 1 to report to the Comptroller’s office, as well as remit to them any “abandoned property.”  According to the comptroller’s website, we are only required to report property that has reached the abandonment period, 3 years in our case.  The reporting requirements are difficult and you’ll need to access the comptroller’s website (www.comptroller.texas.gov/programs/unclaimed) for more information and to download a PDF instruction manual entitled Reporting Instructions.  

By Jonathon R. Kimes, DDS 

Editor, CADS