What is a wage garnishment? A wage garnishment is the process of deducting money from an employee’s (defendant) monetary compensation by ordering a third party (the garnishee/employer) to pay for a debt owed by the employee directly to the plaintiff. When served on an employer, garnishments are taken as part of the payroll process.
Now, let’s discuss the legal boundaries for garnishing wages for patients with delinquent EMS accounts… There are 3 NC General Statutes that permit wage garnishment….
§ 44 ‑ 51.4§ 44 ‑ 51.4. Attachment or garnishment for county or city ambulance or county or city supported ambulance service. What gives EMS permission to wage garnish patients for delinquent bills?
Treating Ambulance as Tax? § 105 ‑ 378§ 105 ‑ 378. Limitation on use of remedies.
What does NC General Statue 105-368 say? § 105 ‑ 368§ 105 ‑ 368. Procedure for attachment and garnishment.
How to get started? 1.) Discuss your participation with your financial advisors, attorney’s and prepare your billing office: > Assign a Deputy County/City Tax Collector. > Approve a garnishment fee. > Approve a standard legal form to be served. > Approve a standard letter for releasing a garn. > Have Policies and Procedures standards in place so the agency has a consistent face. * How much effort to expend on collections? 2.) Contact the Employment Security Commission and enroll. 3.) Review your database and prepare to garnish.
How much effort to expend on collections? Amount of staff available to focus on wage garnishment accounts. Amount of staff available to focus on wage garnishment accounts. Other resources available? Other resources available? Valid Social Security Numbers? Valid Social Security Numbers? Timeline for garnishing debt. Timeline for garnishing debt. Salary baseline for geographic area. Salary baseline for geographic area. Follow-up procedures. Follow-up procedures. What will work for your agency? Develop a process that will yield a high return on bad debt.
Example #1: Mr. Barber used the ambulance June 2007 and the ambulance ride cost $510. The insurance company applied the ambulance trip to the deductible. Mr. Barber has not responded to bills or collection notice. The account is ready for garnishment. With a valid social security number, the Wage History File notes a current employer and a salary of approximately $60,000/year. The 10% deduction amount of his gross wages (based on bi-weekly payroll) will satisfy the debt within two or three paydays. Patient has consistent employment and above average gross earnings.
Example #2: Mr. Gaskins used your ambulance in March 2007. His ambulance ride cost $475. Mr. Gaskins insurance denied his claim because date-of-service was after his termination date. Mr. Gaskins has not responded to five bills and collection notice. Upon researching Mr. Gaskins in ESC, you discover that Mr. Gaskins is currently receiving Unemployment Benefits with ESC. This account would qualify for another collection resource. Patient has inconsistent earnings and collecting unemployment.
Example #3: Mr. Pikuson used your ambulance in April 2007, and December 2006. The patient is private pay and has made no attempt to contact your office. The current account balance totals $1,020. Upon researching the wage history database for garnishment, you see that he has remained with the same employer for over two years. Based on the information provided, the patient makes approximately $22,000/year and is unlikely to change jobs. Patient has consistent employment and average earnings.
Example #4: Mrs. Cruz had a car accident in March 2007 and as a result had to use your ambulance service. Mrs. Cruz received her settlement payment from Allstate Insurance for the car accident, but didn’t pay her ambulance bill. Patient has no health insurance and has not contacted your office. Upon researching her wage history file, you notice there hasn’t been any wages reported on her behalf since third quarter 2007. Her annual income in 2006 was $8385 and her annual income in 2007 was $8918. Patient has consistent employer, but earnings are low.
The ESC database will provide every employer’s information needed to complete a wage garnishment request form. Account Number Federal ID Number
North Carolina }Notice of Attachment & Garnishment for Ambulance Service Beach County } (Authorized by North Carolina G.S. 44-51.4) Plaintiff:Beach County Ambulance Defendant:John F. Doe 123-12-1234 5678 Main Street Winston-Salem, NC 27101 AND Garnishee:Lilly’s Dry Cleaning 56-1111111 5454 North Main Street Winston-Salem, NC 27107 EMPLOYER: PLEASE READ ALL ENCLOSED INFORMATION. EMPLOYEE SHOULD RECEIVE THEIR COPY IMMEDIATELY. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ This is to attach and garnishee any wages, rents, bank deposits, debts, or any other thing of value, now due or to become due to the defendant. The person having same in his possession shall become liable for the amount due to the extent of the amount he owes or has in his possession but not more than 10% of wages or other compensation for personal services in any one pay period shall be liable to attachment and garnishment for failure to pay. The above named Defendant's indebtedness to this taxing unit, on account of duly assessed ambulance service, is as follows: Date of service(s)Account NumberAccount BalanceCounty Fee January 1, 2007XXXXXX$500.00$10.00 Total Due: $510.00 Payable to:XXXXX County AmbulanceDate Served: February 20, 2008 Tax ID# 56-0000000 P.O. Box 555___________________________________ Winston-Salem, NC 27023Deputy County-City Tax Collector Billing Phone: (800) 555-5555Your Name (336) 555-5555 Example of Garnishment Form
On the wage garnishment form: Enter the appropriate information into the form. Make a copy for your office, for the employer, and for the employee. Sign it, date it and mail it out of your office immediately with a list of instructions. Follow-up with accounts in approximately 6 weeks. If an employer sends you an explanation as to why the account can’t be garnished at this time, just remove from garnishment and prepare account for another collections resource. Add garnishment fees to patient’s accounts (if applicable) and COLLECT!
NO! If your patient owes: > Internal Revenue Service > North Carolina Department of Revenue > Child Support > Other government agencies or courts > Bankruptcy Your ambulance debt WILL take a back seat!!! Don’t wait in line use another collection resources NO!
Contact Information Employment Security Commission firstname.lastname@example.org Email: > Who you are. > Who needs access. > What’s your intent to use ESC. Forsyth County Emergency Medical Services Angela E. Munsiewww.fcems.com www.fcems.com email@example.com (336) 703-2747 o(336) 727-8088 f
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