February 4, 2015 —

Mandates Increased Transparency for Freestanding Emergency Rooms

Austin, TX – The Texas Association of Health Plans (TAHP) expressed support for the filing of Senate Bill 425 by Senator Charles Schwertner, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. The bill is written to protect Texas consumers from unexpectedly large charges incurred when visiting freestanding emergency rooms which can look and act like typically less expensive alternatives including urgent care centers.

“There are many medical situations in which the high-end capabilities of a freestanding emergency room are the right choice, but consumers who chose them for less-urgent or even routine care can find themselves with a big financial problem when the bill arrives,” said Jamie Dudensing, CEO of TAHP and a former practicing nurse. “SB425 would alleviate this problem by requiring facilities to provide more transparency about fees, prices and network status. Better-informed consumers can then make much better choices that suit their personal medical situation and family budget.”

While freestanding ERs and urgent care facilities often look and act alike, freestanding ERs may charge up to four or five times more for the same services. Many first time customers are surprised to learn that freestanding ERs typically levy “facility fees” on top of charges for a physician’s time just as a hospital ER does. The “bill shock” of those surprise fees has led to frustrated customers and numerous complaints.

“With those enhanced consumer protections in place, Texans can better manage their care and their finances,” concluded Dudensing. “Given the already high cost of health care, Texans deserve easy access to information that will allow them to make the best choice for themselves and their families.”

The Texas Association of Health Plans

The Texas Association of Health Plans (TAHP) is the statewide trade association representing private health insurers, health maintenance organizations, and other related health care entities operating in Texas. Our members provide health and supplemental benefits to Texans through employer-sponsored coverage, the individual insurance market, and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. TAHP advocates for public and private health care solutions that improve the affordability, access and accountability of health care for many Texans. As the voice for health plans in Texas, TAHP strives to increase public awareness about our members’ services, health care delivery benefits and contributions to communities throughout the state.