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Health Systems

Freestanding Emergency Centers Seek Non-Emergent Care Waiver

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the centers would like to be able to bill like a hospital or urgent care.

Freestanding emergency centers are looking to change the rules to treat non-emergent care during the pandemic. The Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers sent a letter to Human Services Commissioner Cecile Young to seek a waiver allowing for the change. 

Current regulations mean that FECs can’t provide outpatient services despite having the necessary staff and equipment. When a patient shows up to one of the centers for a COVID-19 test, they will be charged emergency room rates. “While the test itself might be offered at no cost to the patient, FECs are emergency rooms, and must bill the visit as an emergency room visit under Texas Law,” said Dr. Edward Wright, founding member of Prestige Emergency Room in San Antonio via release. 

FEC’s would like patients to be able to stay in their facility for longer than 23 hours without penalty of compliance issues to reduce hospital admissions. Hospitals in Dallas have never been near capacity, as Mayor Eric Johnson reports that Dallas hospitals are at 65 percent capacity. The letter asked for a waiver to allow FECs to bill similar to hospitals or urgent care facilities. 

“I encourage HHSC to ease the regulatory burden and adjust to allow FECs to offer outpatient services during this healthcare crisis,” said Wright via release. “Our members and their staff have been an integral part of fighting COVID-19 in Texas, and they will continue to work to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

Read the full letter TAFEC sent to Commissioner Young here.

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