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Rice University Study: Freestanding ERs Costly for Texans, Yield Exorbitant ‘Sticker Shock’

Texans for Affordable Healthcare endorses a number of legislative solutions to crack down on FSERs (Source: Texans for Affordable Healthcare). Multimedia Gallery URL


Rice University this week released research tracking the enormous growth and costly care of freestanding emergency rooms in Texas in a paper published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The study, conducted in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, found the rapid growth of freestanding ERs (FSERs) in Texas – accompanied by an equal increase in use of these facilities by consumers – has led to sizable out-of-pocket costs to patients in recent years.

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“Rice University’s comprehensive study confirms what we know to be true – that freestanding emergency rooms are costly to Texas patients, who often visit these facilities for common conditions that could be treated for much less at an urgent care center,” said Jamie Dudensing of Texans for Affordable Healthcare. “Consumers should be able to focus on getting the immediate care they need without having to worry about the exorbitant fees a freestanding ER is going to charge. We support every effort to crack down on the confusing advertising and skyrocketing billing practices of these facilities, and encourage all Texans to heed the advice of this important study – think twice about visiting a freestanding ER.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • In 2015, the total price of a FSER visit averaged $2,199 versus $168 for an urgent care clinic.
  • FSER use rose 236-percent between 2012 and 2015, compared with growth rates of 10-percent for hospital-based emergency departments and 24-percent for urgent care clinics.
  • 15 of the 20 most common diagnoses treated at freestanding emergency departments were also in the top 20 for urgent care clinics. However, prices for patients with the same diagnosis were on average almost 10 times higher at freestanding emergency departments relative to urgent care clinics.

Rice University’s release comes shortly after the Texas House Committee on Insurance and Senate Committee on Business & Commerce took up House Bill 1566 (Frullo) and Senate Bill 507 (Hancock), respectively, to expand surprise billing protections for healthcare consumers at freestanding ERs and in all out-of-network emergency care situations. Both bills are expected to be acted upon by the House and Senate in the coming weeks.

Texans for Affordable Healthcare endorses a number of legislative solutions to crack down on FSERs.

To view Rice University’s press release about the study, click here.

To learn more about Texans for Affordable Healthcare, visit www.TexansForAffordableHealthcare.com.

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