Patients visiting 24-hour emergency centers appear to be confused by the new Texas laws including their effects on health insurance coverage and emergency medical services.
Newly enacted Texas laws seeking to help patients understand their rights and responsibilities when they visit emergency rooms, appear to be having the opposite effect, according to doctors at SignatureCare Emergency Center.
The Texas legislature recently enacted HB 2041 and SB 1264, updating full disclosure on balance billing, facility notice, and patient responsibility.
Houston, TX based SignatureCare Emergency Center said its doctors are seeing an increase in the number of patients who walk out of emergency rooms due to apparent confusion created by these new legislations which went into effect on September 1st, 2019.
Dr. Hashibul Hannan, MD, a board-certified emergency physician and Managing Partner at SignatureCare Emergency Center, said the confusion, if left unaddressed, could lead to more Texans not getting critical and timely emergency medical care they desperately need.
“What our doctors are seeing is that some patients are walking out of the emergency rooms in confusion. Most Texans do not yet understand the new laws,” said Dr. Hannan.
The new regulations require emergency facilities to post a notice throughout the ER. It also requires facilities to provide each patient with a disclosure statement identifying the cost of their medical care and state if the facility is out-of-network for their insurance. This is resulting in patents getting alarmed and walking out even before being evaluated for potential life-threatening emergencies.
“We are concerned that patients experiencing serious medical emergencies might walk out of the emergency room out of fear of cost and confusion, not realizing that emergency care at SignatureCare facilities will be covered by their insurance companies as any other in-network facility. Failure to receive needed critical care in a timely manner could lead to severe consequences.”
“All it does is create confusion and fear in the patient’s mind. Often, patients walking into the emergency room do not understand that Texas legislature also has regulations that protect the citizens and that emergency care should be covered at in-network rate by their insurance providers,” Hannan said.
He added that while SignatureCare Emergency Center understands the intent of the new regulations and agrees with it, the state needs to do more to educate the public about the regulations in order to alleviate confusion and fear.
Hannan said that as a provider of emergency medical services, SignatureCare Emergency Center evaluates all patients that walk into the facilities, whether they have health insurance or not.
“We do not turn anyone with a medical emergency away, whether they have health insurance or not. The care each patient receives when they come into any SignatureCare Emergency Center has not changed, and it will not change. We strive to provide top quality care to everyone,” he said.
“We are concerned that patients experiencing serious medical emergencies might walk out of the emergency room out of fear of cost and confusion, not realizing that emergency care at SignatureCare facilities will be covered by their insurance companies as any other in-network facility. Failure to receive needed critical care in a timely manner could lead to severe consequences.” Hannan added.
He said that SignatureCare Emergency Center will continue to work with other emergency medical services providers, as well as medical organizations in Texas, to further clarify the regulations, and help patients fully understand their rights.
“We want to make sure everyone understands that the new regulations do not affect the quality of emergency care they will receive with or without health insurance. No one needs to leave the emergency room just because they may be confused by these regulations. We are medical professionals. We will still see them and address their emergency conditions,” Dr. Hannan added.