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Independent ERs Feeling Heat From Patients, Insurers and Hospitals


  05:17:10 pm, by MedBen5   , 241 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Independent ERs Feeling Heat From Patients, Insurers and Hospitals

Bloomberg News (via Employee Benefits News) reports on a growing backlash against independent emergency rooms. While these free-standing facilities are popular with some patients – often offering 24-hour service, minimal waits, board-certified emergency specialists and complex testing technology – they’re also an expensive option, espcially for individuals who aren’t seriously ill.

Some consumers and health insurers complain that the facility fees charged by this new breed of ERs aren’t justified and lack transparency. Meanwhile, hospital ERs say the competition deprives them of needed funds by drawing away privately-insured patients, leaving them to treat a higher proportion of the uninsured and those covered under government plans – patients some independent ERs don’t treat.

“Physician- and investor-owned ERs are skimming off the cream-of-the-crop patients,” says John Milne, chairman of emergency medicine at Swedish Medical Center, a nonprofit health-care system in Issaquah, Wash. “Many are glorified urgent-care centers, but they still bill ER charges.”

A growing number of states now require that stand-alone ERs, like their hospital counterparts, treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Proponents of independent ERs counter that they provide a useful alternative to hospital ERs, which can be overcrowded and understaffed. And costs are comparable to those in hospitals because the services they provide are similar.

“We’re an ER,” says Heather Weimer, spokeswoman for First Choice, an independent emergency room in League City, Texas. “That means it will cost more. We don’t try to hide it.”

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