Legislature Will Try Again to Restrict 'Free Standing Emergency Rooms'

A measure has been filed in the Texas Legislature to rein in those 'free standing emergency rooms' which are popping up all over the state, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The measure would prohibit the facilities from telling patients' they accept their insurance when they dont, and it also requires the facilities to inform patients of the fees they will have to pay up front, because, too often, supporters of the bill like Blake Hutson of Texas AARP says patients get slapped with huge bills later on.

"They think the facility is going to be in network, because they are being told, 'we accept your insurance,' and they are also reassured that 'everything is going to be covered'," Hutson said. "Next thing you know, you find out they were actually out of network, and the bills are huge."

The free standing ER's are far different from 'urgent care centers,' which provide, essentially, first aid. The free standing ERs are frequently equipped with the same sort of equipment often found in hospital emergency rooms.

But Hutson says the facilities frequently tell patients 'we take your insurance,' which he says is misleading, because frequently the facility will simply submit the bill for payment, and when it is rejected, the customer gets stuck with a massive balance bill.

Major insurance companies generally work out fee negotiations with the medical centers which take their insurance.

Another complaint, Hutson says, is that free standing ERs advertise for patients to 'come in and get checked out' for, for example, flu symptoms, when that check could be done far cheaper in a doctor's office or at an urgent care center.

"They start running test after test after test, and the bills keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger," he said.

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