What is The Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (TAFEC)?
Freestanding Emergency Centers are a relatively new concept in Texas, having been established in 2009. This form of healthcare differs from other healthcare providers due the type and quality of healthcare offered. There are many freestanding emergency centers spread all over Texas. To maintain high quality standards and present a unified voice, the freestanding emergency centers formed the Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (TAFEC). Bellaire ER explores the formation and functions of TAFEC.
The freestanding emergency care industry was established in 2009 under House Bill 1357. However, there were few freestanding ERs in Texas that operated individually before the bill was passed. Each of these ERs set their own regulations about operating times and the quality of care.
After the recognition of the freestanding ERs by law, there was a need to standardize their practices. It is due to this need that TAFEC was formed. The association became the first statewide representation for FECs in the United States.
TAFEC looks to provide a unified voice from the freestanding emergency centers. This way, the industry can present its views clearly and have a central point of representation. This unification helps the industry pay an important role during the creation of laws and regulations affecting the freestanding emergency centers.
TAFEC is also involved in creating awareness on freestanding emergency centers all over Texas. Through their awareness mandate, TAFEC aims to inform residents about the benefits of FECs and how to use them.
TAFEC also helps to maintain high quality standards for all its members. This includes high quality service to patients in minimum wait times.
TAFEC has been involved in many advocacy roles to create fair regulation for the FEC industry.
Health insurance transparency is one of the items under TAFEC’s legislative agenda. TAFEC is pushing for legislation that will require insurance companies to be transparent about how they calculate the rates paid to out-of-network healthcare providers.
The problem of surprise medical costs has plagued consumers who visit FECs. People are often presented with huge medical bills especially when they visit out-of-network FECs. This is because some insurance companies only cover a small portion of the bill and thus the patient is left to cater for the rest out-of-pocket.
With a transparent calculation mechanism, the insurers will have to be consistent in their payments to healthcare providers and the law can institute penalties for any insurance company that underpays.
Keeping in its role to provide fair regulation in the industry, TAFEC is looking to eliminate surprise medical bills through legislation. They hope to create a law that standardizes the reimbursement rates from the insurance providers. This way, patients will not be presented with surprise medical bills as they’ll already know how much their insurance covers.
Apart from the transparency of insurance companies, TAFEC also aims to promote the transparency of FECs. FECs in Texas were plagued with the problem of people confusing them with urgent care centers. This led to the passage of the Senate Bill 425 that mandated FECs to provide clear signage and information on the difference in cost and quality of care between them and urgent care centers.
The bill requires the FECs to post notices that inform patients that the facility is a freestanding emergency center and that billing is similar to a hospital based emergency center. The notices also inform the patients that their medical insurer might not cover their costs and that the physician attending to them might bill separately from the hospital.
These notices have to be placed in areas where they are clearly visible such as the entrances, treatment rooms, payment locations, and on the FECs website.
The bill helped to reduce complaints by patients who were met with surprise bills to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
In keeping with the need for transparency, TAFEC also has a section on its website that informs patients on which healthcare facility can serve them best. The section primarily aims to distinguish between urgent care and emergency centers. Illnesses and injuries such as flu symptoms, sprains, cuts, and allergies are best treated at an urgent care. Emergency rooms should be accessed for true emergencies such as heart attacks, stroke, chest pain, and severe burns.
TAFEC also has a lot of materials on other subjects such as FEC billing and Texas medical statutes. All this information is meant to help patients make the right decision when visiting a healthcare center. It also helps them access quality healthcare in times of an emergency since they know that that the insurers are supposed to pay for the emergency services at in-network rates.
TAFEC has 30 members who run 220 FECs across Texas. The FECs are located in more than 100 communities all over Texas. All the facilities operated by each member have to join if the parent company decides to join the association. These facilities also have to pay separate dues.