Are Freestanding Emergency Centers required to treat all patients?
Freestanding emergency centers are relatively a new concept that is becoming popular in Texas. However, the industry of FECs has faced various problems and misconceptions. One of the most commonly asked questions is whether the FECs are required to treat all patients. The answer to this question varies by state and by the type of FEC. Bellaire ER has chosen to give an in-depth answer to this issue.
Freestanding emergency centers
FECs are always open, and they are designed to handle emergency health cases such as heart attacks, severe burns and open fractures. They are equipped similar to a hospital emergency center, but they are not located in hospitals. There are mainly two types of FECs.
Hospital owned FEC
A hospital owned freestanding emergency center serves as an outpatient extension of the hospital. The FEC operates the same way as an emergency department located in a hospital. This means that patients get the care accorded at a hospital emergency department including access to emergency specialists and nurses. The FECs are also well equipped with full range laboratories and a broad spectrum of imaging devices. The FEC is part of the hospital, and hence the physicians working here are part of the hospital staff.
These facilities also accept Medicaid and Medicare as they are recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. If the parent hospital is in-network for a certain health insurance plan, the FEC is also considered to be in-network.
Since these emergency centers are hospital owned, they have to comply with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). The act mandates the FEC to screen and stabilize any patient who comes into the emergency room with an emergency. People with true emergencies are screened and treated first before they can delve into questions of payment.
However, if after the screening your case is found to be a non-emergency or if you come into the hospital with a non-emergency case, the FEC may turn you away if you don’t have the ability to pay. This is for the FECs that are owned by private hospitals. However, if the facility is a public hospital, you cannot be denied care in any condition whether you can pay or not.
Independently owned FEC
These facilities are independently owned with no hospital affiliations. The independent FECs might have arrangements with local hospitals for transfer of patients after stabilization.
These FECs also don’t accept Medicare or Medicaid since they are not recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The independent FECs have the same equipment and staffing as the hospital owned FECs and they offer the same services as the hospital based emergency rooms.
Independent FECs are not bound by EMTALA or other federal regulations regarding emergency centers. This means that the independent FECs can deny care to a patient even in times of an emergency if they don’t have the ability to pay.
Some states such as Texas have created rules that are similar to the federal EMTALA. In Texas, an independently owned FEC is required to screen and stabilize a patient who is in an emergency situation before they can discuss payment options.
The FECs also treat non-emergency cases, but they can turn a patient away if his/her case is not an emergency and the patient doesn’t have the ability to pay.
Following this analysis, it is clear that FECs are equipped to handle a broad spectrum of illnesses and injuries and although they are meant for emergency cases, you can also get treated for non-emergency cases. The FECs are not required to treat all patients. However, in a place like Texas, all FECs are required to treat any patients with emergency cases even if the patient has no ability to pay for the treatment.
The fact that you can get treatment from a freestanding emergency center or a hospital based emergency department doesn’t always mean that you should. When you have a case of a minor injury, it is better to visit a primary care physician or an urgent care center before you consider going to a freestanding medical center. This is because the FECs charge additional facility fees so that they can effectively manage their many facilities. Going to an FEC for a non-emergency case might cause overcrowding and strain the available resources.
You can visit an independently owned FEC if you are looking for fast and quality healthcare, and you are willing to pay the high cost. These FECs usually have low wait times, and you can be seen by a doctor as soon as you walk in.
Bellaire ER is a freestanding emergency center that offers quality service to its patients. Our facilities are equipped to handle all types of emergencies, and we operate according to the state and federal laws. If you are in an emergency situation near our facilities, you should get there as fast as you can to get medical help.