The “Wild West” of Emergency Care

Several states, such as North Carolina, Texas and Florida, are experiencing a surge in “stand-alone” emergency rooms.  Stand-alone ERs are aptly named, as they are not attached to hospitals, and they tend to offer speedier and more convenient service to their patients. Some argue that freestanding ERs alleviate overcrowded hospital ERs, and that it is impossible to have “too much care for patients.” However, others maintain that such ERs increase costs because they charge insurers up to three times more per patient than urgent care facilities or doctors’ offices.

The copay for insured patients at a freestanding ER is only slightly higher than the copay for a doctor’s visit or a trip to an urgent care facility. Often, patients use ERs for routine care, which would be less costly in another facility, and insurers do not have the power to stop this practice.  For example, pursuant to Texas state law, insurers must pay for coverage whenever a patient seeks treatment for a perceived emergency, regardless of whether the patient has experienced a true emergency. The rise of freestanding ERs is most notable in “affluent suburbs,” even though insurers strive to educate patients about the benefits of seeking less costly treatment.  To read more click here and here.

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