Free-Standing ERs in Georgia could cause major problems to your health and bank account.
Free-Standing Emergency Rooms are being proposed in Georgia. At first, this sounds like a good idea. Better access, right? Less expensive, right? Same services as a full-service ER, right? Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth. But the out-of-state for-profit investors in these centers would have you think so. FairER Healthcare GA is a coalition of organizations and concerned citizens in opposition of Free-Standing Emergency Rooms/Departments who are committed to educating Georgians on the negative attributes and potentially devasting effects of these centers on your health and personal financial health. This website will provide a brief overview of the issues so that you can judge for yourself.
Free-Standing ERs aren't full service emergency rooms
Many people arrive at Free-Standing ERs thinking they are the same as Full-Service Emergency Rooms attached to a hospital. Proponents of Free-Standing ER’s would have you believe that these facilities are equipped to treat ANY type of emergency within its four walls. Not true. Free-Standing ERs cannot provide access to all emergency services and treatment because it is not attached to a full-service hospital where the required facilities, equipment and care are readily available, including operating rooms and inpatient care. These retail-oriented centers will claim that you have access to these services. This is misleading at best and dangerous at worst. What they REALLY mean is that some of the most critical services would require another ambulance ride to a full-service hospital. This could delay critical, lifesaving treatment when every minute counts AND would ultimately cost consumers more money.
Research has shown that retail oriented Free-Standing ERs attract more non-emergent patients, creating over-utilization of these much more expensive services.
Free-Standing ERs increase costs for patients and payors (including Medicaid and the State Health Benefit Plan) by charging Emergency Room prices for care that should be provided in physicians’ offices or urgent care centers. Research shows that an overwhelming majority of Free-Standing ER patients are NOT emergent patients. Yet, they pay emergency room rates. SURPRISE.
The data below demonstrates the top ten conditions of 8 stand-alone emergency departments in Colorado compared to urgent care centers in the state. You will see that six of the top ten conditions are the same.
Free-Standing ERS aren't true emergency departments
In Texas where Free-Standing ERs are prevalent, the average cost of a Free-Standing ER visit ($3,217) is 22 times more than at a physician office ($146) and 19 times more than at an urgent care center ($167) for a set of 10 non-emergency conditions frequently treated at Free-Standing ERs.** Why would you pay that much more out-of-pocket for the same service at Urgent Care or a physician office?
“The cost difference, however, can be substantial. Patients in states like Texas and Colorado have reported receiving bills for thousands of dollars from emergency departments, when they thought they were walking into an urgent care clinic.”
– Tampa Bay Times
(**Note: The 10 non-emergency conditions frequently treated at Free-Standing ERs nationally are bronchitis, sore throat, upper respiratory infection, cough, dizziness, fever, flu, headache, nausea, and strep throat.)
FairER Healthcare Georgia is devoted to educating Georgians about the harmful effects of Free-Standing ERs. A broad coalition of organizations and concerned citizens support FairER Healthcare GA. The following organizations have voiced their opposition to Free-Standing ER projects in the state of Georgia:
Proposed Legislation to Circumvent Regulatory Approval
Over the past couple of years in Georgia, several bills have been introduced that would allow Free-Standing ERs to bypass the regulatory approval process by eliminating the requirement for a Certificate of Need (CON). The CON process serves to evaluate the need of a service in Georgia in order to promote quality and control health care costs by preventing unnecessary duplicative services in an area. Proponents of Free-Standing ERs will claim that they are providing more access to healthcare, especially in rural areas. Yet almost none of these facilities are being proposed in rural GA. They are being proposed in affluent markets where profiteering healthcare companies can attract the most paying patients. To add insult to injury, these facilities are near other hospital emergency rooms, thus disproving there is a need for these services. In addition, Free-Standing ERs are also frequently responsible for surprise bills (out of pocket expenses not covered by insurance companies).
There are many in GA, including some legislators, who are working to protect patients from these surprise bills, thus it is counterproductive to support policies that will bring an outbreak of these Free-Standing ERs to our state. When you add to the equation that the majority of services could be provided by urgent care centers, the approval of Free-Standing ER’s adds no value to our communities and could threaten or severely harm the safety and financial wellbeing of GA citizens. FairER Healthcare GA OPPOSES legislation that would allow Free-Standing ERs to bypass the regulatory process and OPPOSES the approval of Free-Standing ER’s which only serve to line the pockets of shareholders of Big Healthcare.
Want to learn more?
Take a look at the following whitepapers and research studies that prove Free-Standing ERs cause more harm than good.
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