Your ARMor

The UCS Newsletter, providing A/R management and debt collection insights, with the commitment of maintaining the important balance between

Results and Relationships
 vol. 5 issue 3
 
      
 
 
    


                Greetings!           
 
 
 
Table of Contents





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gratitude
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kim,  
You have been great to work with on this unfortunate issue. 
Thank you so much for your kindness.  Please apply this check to reference# XX-XXXXXXXXX.
      Thanks so much,
               a consumer

Hi, 
I want to thank Krys for being so polite and helpful. She is an asset to your company.
   Sincerely,
         a consumer

Hi,
Thank you Kori, You are the best!

Hi Shirley, Thank you for always treating me with respect when you call. I'm sure you're the #1 collection person. Could you please send me the paid-in full letter for both accounts?
    Sincerely, 
           a consumer
 
 
 

                                                     

I come from a family of tradesmen. My dad was a tool and die maker and his brothers were also in the trades. One uncle was an electrician and the other a plumber. When I was little I loved following them around while they worked on jobs around the house. As their little apprentice I sometimes lugged their heavy tool boxes around, handing them tools as required.


I look back at those days with great fondness and when I bought my first house and things broke down or a remodel was in order I realized just how fortunate I was to have the knowledge and ability to handle most of the projects myself. But as time went on, the other thing I realized was that sometimes knowledge and expertise isn’t enough. Sometimes it’s about having the right tool for the job. I remember a time when I had a plumbing issue I could not fix. I worked and worked on it for multiple days in a row until finally my wife admitted defeat for me and called my uncle. He came over, reached into his toolbox and pulled out a type of wrench I’d never seen before. He was able to fix in less than five minutes something I struggled with for more hours than I’d like to admit. That little wrench was the only thing that stood between me and successfully completing the project. I can’t tell you how happy my wife and I were when he threw that little wrench into my toolbox saying, now you’ll be ready if this ever happens again.


When a business signs an agreement with UCS a partnership is created and together we pursue the common mission of collecting money, but that’s not where the partnership ends. We also understand we are partners in maintaining your good name and the relationships you’ve built with your customers.


Our industry is like any other, we’ve got great tools that help us get the job done. These tools include things like credit reporting and litigation.


Within the boundaries of the law, how aggressively we pursue a debt is largely determined by you, our clients. That’s why we have a checklist of questions we ask when on-boarding new partners. We take our lead from you. Do you want the debt reported to the credit bureaus? If recommended, would you consider pursuing legal action? (Please know that when answering yes to this question it is only telling us you will consider it. We will always send a permission to sue request for each account recommended.)


Once you’ve decided to partner with a collection agency we want you to be able to get the most out of the partnership. In the articles below, we are going to talk about some of the tools of my trade and together let’s get these debts paid.


If you are a current client, thank you for the opportunity to serve you, we appreciate your business.


Best regards,

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When we bring on a new client, one of the more frequently asked questions is “What information do I have to provide to you to get started?”


That may seem obvious to someone who has been working with collections for a long time, but for someone just getting started the collection and reporting of debtor information can seem overwhelming.


In fact, given ever changing rules and regulations, particularly relating to credit reporting, the accuracy and timeliness of information has never been more important. We provide our clients with an easy to use form that can be used to fill out and submit debtor information. Access the form here. If you are not a client (yet!) you might also find this form useful to use as your checklist of critical information to gather from your customers.


In the collections business more information is better, and time is of the essence when it comes to providing debtor information. Waiting too long to report a debt can lead to missed opportunities for quick and efficient collections. The old saying ‘the older it is the farther it goes’ is still quite true.


So what critical information do we need?


  • Full name of the responsibility party
  • Spouse’s name: if this may be a jointly held debt or if Doctrine of Necessaries could be applied
  • Current known address including street address, city, state and zip code
  • Social Security Number or
  • Date of Birth
  • Home phone number
  • Cell phone number
  • Proof of debt: for example a copy of the bill that was sent to the debtor
  • Date of debt: This is the date the debt was incurred not the date the bill was sent
  • Is the account in dispute?
  • Is there an attorney involved and/or has debtor filed bankruptcy?
  • Was debt previously placed with another collection agency? Please note: debts can only be placed with one agency at a time. Accounts must be cancelled from one agency before forwarding to another

Very helpful to know are the following (as they are available):


  • Employer name, address and phone.
  • Has mail sent to the debtor been returned as undeliverable?
  • Any forwarding address provided?
  • A copy of any financial payment agreement signed by the debtor.
  • Any information relating to jobs, home ownership or other assets
  • Any additional correspondence that is relevant to the debt


IMPORTANT CHANGES REGARDING CREDIT REPORTING:


Should clients elect to have us report a debtor to credit agencies, many important changes have recently been implemented which require us to provide very specific information before they will agree to report the debt. As the graphic below shows, there are many new requirements we must meet for us to use this powerful tool on behalf of our clients.


  • For us to report a debtor to an agency we must supply:
    • Full name: first, middle name or initial, (if available), and last name
    • Address including city, state and zip code
    • Full Social Security Number (SSN) or
    • Date of birth (if full Social Security number is not available)
  • Additionally, if the debt is paid, or is being paid, by insurance, we must remove that portion of the debt from the amount  reported to the agency
  • We also cannot report medical debt that is less than 180 days old
  • Finally, each month we are required to submit our full credit reporting file which includes accounts that are still open, that have paid in the last 90 days, or that require deletion or correction 

Keeping the information tools in your collections tool box sharp and up to date can often provide for more rapid and effective debt payment resolution.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Have you ever looked in the toolbox of someone who is considered to be a skilled professional in the craft in which they specialize? If not, take the time to peek into the tool boxes of a woodworker, carpenter, plumber or electrician. What you will see, if you look beyond the vast array of a diverse set of tools, are specialized tools used for precise and very specific purposes. These tools are not cheap, take great skill to use, precise knowledge of when and when not to use them, and regular maintenance to ensure they are ready to be used at any time.


In our business one of our specialized tools is litigation.


Litigation is very serious business. It is expensive. It is time consuming. It requires a special expertise to be effective. We do not use it unless we have exhausted all avenues of voluntary payment prior to making the decision to litigate to enforce collection of a debt.


Let’s face it: It is much less costly to collect a debt on a voluntary basis without legal intervention. In fact, in our experience, if a shotgun approach is used and claims are filed against just about everyone who doesn't pay, a favorable judgment may be awarded,  but oftentimes the judgments simply do not get paid. That is why taking litigation to the next level is so important and why using this important tool requires a great deal of precision.


When we recommend to a client that we pursue litigation against a particular debtor we have already done our homework and ascertained that a judgment has not only a high likelihood of being awarded, but also paid. We always require written permission from our client to sue, but by the time we make our recommendation we have endeavored to answer what we call the “Five ‘W’s” of determining whether to recommend and pursue legal action. Should any one of these ‘W’s’ not be satisfied we likely will not suggest litigating.


What can clients do to help ensure that if we reach this stage we can proceed with confidence? By providing full information to support this next step from the time the initial debt is placed.


Here are the five ‘W’s’ we use:


Who is it that owes the debt? Information is key to successful litigation. Our client’s record keeping is critical to taking the initial steps in this process. We need to know the full names of all parties responsible for this transaction and any other relevant information pertaining to the debt. Importantly, if the debtor is a business we must know the full legal name of that business and how that business is organized: (Sole proprietorship, Corporation, Partnership, etc.). Without this critical information litigation is not a good option.


What is owed? What is the exact amount of the debt including all payments and/or adjustments made to the balance? Supporting documentation (proof of debt) must be provided. If any additional amount is added to the original balance it must be agreed to in writing between all parties to the transaction.


Why hasn't the debtor paid as agreed? It is critical for us to understand any communications which have occurred between the debtor and our client. For example, is there a dispute about the bill or services rendered? We usually are able to determine this during our initial contacts with the debtor. If everything is in order, and we are not successful in our efforts to contact the debtor, we can assume there is no legitimate reason as to why the debt remains unpaid. If a reason is uncovered it is possible to avoid legal action and resolve the debt through a dispute resolution process without the time and cost of a court action.


Where should the debt be sued? Proper venue is required in a court action. The written contract between the debtor and our client may state where any legal action can be undertaken. If this isn't stated, then action must be taken in the county/state of the debtor's primary residence. Not filing in the proper jurisdiction can result in dismissal of the suit and an inability to recover the debt at all.


When was the debt incurred? Each state has a legal timeframe in which we can bring a court action to collect a debt. We must know that time frame so that we make sure we file the case before it expires, or don't file a lawsuit on an uncollectible debt. This time frame is known as the "Statute of Limitations." Typically, in most Midwestern states, the statute of limitation is five or six years but can vary. If the time dictated by the statute of limitations in the state in which the action is filed has been exceeded, collection of that debt can no longer be pursued. 


Proper litigation can be undertaken when these W's are known. Each state, and in some cases each county within the state, may have its own set of rules that must be followed in a court action. We are very thorough and complete in our research to ensure we follow the law in each appropriate venue to ensure the highest probability of success.


Using this specialized tool, litigation can be extremely effective when collecting otherwise uncollectable debts. Doing our homework and gathering all necessary information before litigating enhances the probability of a successful outcome. In the cases where litigation is the only option, precision in using this tool ensures we provide the best service and outcome possible.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

There are two things you can count on when there are business to consumer, or business to business transactions: number 1, there are going to be expectations—on both sides—as to what this transaction looks like, and number 2, money is going to change hands. In order for this relationship or transaction to be successful, the two parties must have a meeting of the minds (preferably upfront) of each party’s expectations and responsibilities. In the case of a simple transaction like the purchase of a cup of coffee—it’s a no brainer: One party is supplying the coffee, the other is paying the agreed upon price for it. But not all transactions are simple, some get pretty complex, that’s where business transaction agreements and financial agreements come into play. By putting everything in writing, a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided.


In the case of a business transaction agreement, you will want to describe exactly what each party will receive as a result of the transaction--the more specific you get describing products and/or services provided, the better.  It's also a good idea to have a section dedicated to defining terms: what does "default" mean to you?  Does "delivery" mean to the outside of the building or inside up three flights of stairs?  You get the drift.  The more specific you get, the less chance you have for misunderstandings You will also want to have a section dedicated to exact cost and payment terms of the transaction and what will happen if the terms are not met.


In the case of financial agreements, they center on the financial side of the agreement. Let’s say you are a doctor or other medical provider who owns her own practice, a financial agreement would be the way to go. You are providing medical care in exchange for financial compensation. Your financial agreement should spell out the patient’s responsibilities, what their end of the agreement looks like. It should include things like: applicable copays are due at time of service or patient is responsible for paying all amounts not paid for or partially covered by insurance, things like that. If they are a no-show, will they be charged a fee? If so, put it in your financial agreement. It is also a good place to request authorizations: patient authorizes release of medical information to process claims, or patient authorizes any health benefit plan(s) covering this account to pay your practice directly. You should also spell out what happens if an account goes unpaid. Will their account be sent to a collection agency? How many days delinquent does it have to be before it is sent to collections? If it continues to go unpaid (and you are willing to use litigation to obtain payment) will they be responsible for reasonable attorney’s fees that are incurred? When you set expectations early on, there will be fewer surprises—for both sides—later.


Financial agreements not only let your patients know what is expected, they also provide your staff with a written policy of how billing and collections transpire in your practice. It lets your receptionists know they are supposed to ask for (and collect) copays at time of service and tells the billing department when to send delinquent accounts over to collections.


You can find lots of articles online that explain how to write your own agreement, but use caution if you decide to go this route. Having a written—signed and dated—financial agreement in place will not only set expectations for patients and employees it can also be used in court to support the rights and responsibilities of both parties in the transaction. That’s why it is important to have a lawyer review your agreement before it is used in court. Sometimes legalese sounds one way to us, but can be interpreted much differently in a court room.


Oftentimes we see medical providers include a statement that refers to the patient being subject to a finance charge of up to 17 % APR if the account is 60 or more days overdue. Sound good to you? The thing is, the term “finance charge” has a legal definition found in the Consumer Act. It means that the creditor is collecting the interest, or other money, as a condition of an extension of credit. The term “finance charge” is defined to be more than mere interest. It can include any additional charges imposed when payment is deferred, including the billing charges in the agreement. Since it is such a loaded term it should not be used unless a consumer credit transaction is clearly what the creditor wants. It’s also important to know the FDCPA does not allow collection agencies to collect these finance charges on behalf of many businesses, healthcare providers included.


I bet you never thought the statement referring to a “finance charge” would open up such a huge can of worms.


We have a network of attorneys who are very knowledgeable in the field of creditors’ rights and remedies. If you have any questions regarding the financial agreement you are currently using, email it to us and we will review it for you—free of charge—no strings attached.


A thought out, well written business transaction or financial agreement can go a long way to help a business or practice prosper.



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2017 Wisconsin Chapter AAHAM Fall Conference
October 25th - 27th,
La Crosse, WI  


                          Hope to see you there!
 
 
 
 
United Credit Service, Inc.
www.unitedcreditservice.com
15 N. Lincoln Street, P.O. Box 740
Elkhorn, WI 53121
262.723.2902
 
 
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