The fast growth of freestanding emergency care centers such as Bellaire ER in the US is helping to transform how patients receive emergency care in the country. This model, which is focused on speed, convenience, and getting the patients optimal time with doctors has continued to thrive despite numerous misconceptions.

It is especially so in Texas, which in 2009, became the first state to allow independent FECs. Today there are over 200 independent FECs and over 100 that are hospital-affiliated. These FECs are located close to patients, which helps to save critical time that could be the difference between life and death.

According to TAFEC, this growth in FECs is a testament to the fact that they are beneficial to communities and patients whom they serve. In that regard, they wanted to dispel myths that have cropped up around these facilities.

FECs are not true emergency rooms
This is a popular myth that is basd on a misconception. FECs get the same licensing rules as hospital ERs. This is done to ensure that patients can get the same quality of service. For instance, each FEC has to have a physician trained in emergency care and a registered nurse on site at all times. Besides that, they have to operate 24/7 all year and have the equipment needed to diagnose and treat an emergency.

FECs often give patients surprise medical bills, popularly referred to as balance billing
The facts show that based on numerous patients surveys, most patients are well aware of the FEC billing they are likely to get. However, in instances where patients have been hit with surprise bills, it has been due to the predatory nature of their insurer or a lack of clear understanding of what they are covered for by the insurer.

This problem can be traced back to insurance laws in Texas that say health care providers should be reimbursed a “usual and customary rate.” Since this is quite ambiguous, insurers determine their own rates that ensure they pay the least amount possible. This leaves the FEC with few options; they can collect from the patient or file a case with the Texas department of insurance.

Another reason is that the Affordable Care Act makes it illegal to penalize a person for receiving emergency care. It is left to him or her to determine when he or she is suffering from an emergency. However, many insurers flaunt this rule. They thus pay much less for out-of-network care.

The other reason for surprise billing is that the patient may not understand his or her own insurance plan. Thus, the patient ends up with a plan that has high out of pocket costs as designated in their plan. It is for this reason that TAFEC is committed to educating people on their health insurance plans.

FECs, unlike ERs, do not have to attend to all patients
This is just a myth. FECs are required to offer critical care to every patient that walks through the door. That means Medicaid, Medicare, and uninsured people will all get care when they walk through the door. The law requires that they offer medical screening and stabilize every patient at the facility. This results to millions of dollars of uncompensated care every year, which makes them a crucial resource for their community.

FECs price gouge patients by deliberately making them believe that they are at an urgent care center

All FECs ensure they offer patients high-quality emergency care. They do not pretend to offer urgent care to their patients to price gouge them. Besides that, the law in Texas has provided guidelines to ensure that FECs offer the same level of care as hospital ERs. All of these facilities will have huge signs with the word “Emergency” clearly displayed on them. Besides that, it is in the billing disclosures, which patients have to sign showing they are in an emergency room. It is worth noting that the law makes it clear that only emergency care facilities can use the word “Emergency.”

The cost of healthcare rises when you use FECs

Studies have been done to show this is not true. For instance, a study in 2010 by the University of Michigan showed that average cost for admitted patients is $35,000. It has been shown by some studies that FECs could actually help to cut down the admission rates of patients. This can lead to more efficiency and reduce the cost of healthcare. The reason for this is that there is no incentive for them to push patients to hospital beds.

Who is TAFEC

It is an acronym for the Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers. It is the only such statewide association in the US. It is an organization whose only role is to represent FECs. The organization works to ensure that its members offer patients timely and high-quality emergency care at all times.