During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 425, which went into effect on January 1, 2016. The bill’s primary focus was to increase transparency at freestanding emergency rooms.
SB 425 required freestanding emergency centers to post a notice stating the following:
- The facility is a freestanding emergency medical care facility;
- The facility charges rates comparable to a hospital emergency room including a facility fee;
- The facility and/or physician providing medical care at the facility may not be a participating provider in the patient’s health benefit plan provider network; and
- The physician providing medical care at the facility may bill separately from the facility for the medical care provided to a patient.
The notice required by SB 425 must be posted prominently and conspicuously in the following areas:
- At the primary entrance to the facility;
- In each patient treatment room;
- At each location within the facility at which a person pays for health care services; and
- On the facility’s Internet website.
TAFEC would like to thank Senator Schwertner and Representative Bonnen for authoring Senate Bill 425 because it has made a positive impact on the FEC industry and its patients. Confusion surrounding the industry has decreased greatly since the implementation of this bill.
At the Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing in May, Patrick Waldren, the manager of the Health Facility Compliance for the Texas Department of State Health Services, stated, “Last session, you all passed a bill that the facilities have to post their charges at the entrance, in the treatment rooms, and again at the discharge area. Once that happened, our complaint line, the complaints that we get in terms of billing at freestandings has decreased remarkably. So the patients know what’s going on, what’s happening to them, and they have not found it necessary to complain to the department anymore about the billings that they’ve been getting. I think we’ve gotten maybe two since that law was passed.”
To further increase transparency, TAFEC created a “Know Where to Go” section of our website, giving patients tips about where to go when seeking medical attention. The association has a “Boosting Medical Literacy” section because we feel consumers are not informed about the specifics of their individual health plans. The association is partnering with members to host familiarization tours in markets where freestanding emergency centers are new to the area. Additionally, TAFEC has created a video on SB 425 to take another step in informing patients about freestanding emergency rooms and what they can expect during their visit.
Freestanding emergency centers are not pretending to be urgent care centers and mislead our patients. This would not be good for our business or for the industry. Freestanding emergency centers function best when consumers are informed about all of their options and empowered to make the right decision for care. Our goal as an industry is to raise awareness and educate patients about freestanding emergency center services and ways they can be successfully utilized within the existing healthcare system.