For many Americans spring marks the anticipation of a tax refund from federal or state governments. But residents of one North Carolina county who owe a medical debt to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) may soon discover that the hospital has the ability to intercept state income tax refunds or lottery winning to cover individual patient bad debt.

According to a story on StarNewsOnline, NHRMC wants in on an already established county debt settlement program that allows the county government to capture funds from tax refunds and lotto windfalls in the event of unpaid municipal financial obligations.

Since the program’s inception, the county has collected almost $3 million from residents who owe government debts. To date, the hospital has not been able to leverage this tool to recover lost revenue. County officials believe that policy should change.

According to StarNewsOnline

‘We’re financially vested in their [the hospital's] well-being,’ said Lisa Wurtzbacher, the county finance director. ‘They’re reported in our financial statements and a commissioner sits on the board of trustees. So given our relationship, it feels appropriate that we can expand that program to them.’

Adding NHCRMC to this program would not change the current procedure for the county or alter the hospital’s regular debt collection efforts. It would just give them another option, she said.

NHRMC, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, is a not-for-profit health system that employs more than 4,000 in the state of North Carolina. According to the hospital’s website,

New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) is a teaching hospital and regional referral center.  As the tertiary care center for a seven-county area, New Hanover Regional Medical Center offers specialty medical and surgical care, which includes freestanding women’s and children’s, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals and one of 10 trauma centers in the state certified at Level II or above.

No official timetable has been set to formally propose the change to the county board of commissioners.


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