A bill proposed in the Texas House on Wednesday would require freestanding emergency rooms to disclose how much treatment will cost you before you receive that treatment, if passed.
State Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) proposed House Bill 2041.
If passed, the bill would require freestanding emergency rooms to provide patients a written disclosure statement in English and Spanish, providing information on facilities fees, as well as an explanation when a facility is out of network.
Consumer advocacy groups like the AARP say this bill is necessary, because many people mistakenly go to freestanding ERs when they don't need to.
"We've seen the industry show some bad practices in how they mislead the consumers over the years. What the bill does, it says when the consumer walks in the door, they have to be told the fees up front, and how that facility actually works with insurance," said AARP's Blake Hutson.
Hutson says he hears many complaints of patients going to freestanding ERs when they have only minor ailments, because they confused it with an urgent care center. This confusion can cost thousands of dollars in medical bills.
The AARP says many elderly patients are confused by this, but if the bill is passed, it would benefit all Texans.
"You can make the choice of whether you want to do the out-of-network, possibly really expensive care, or you might want to go somewhere else," Hutson said.
Austinites say they are in favor of more transparency, especially when it comes to their money.
"Whatever the copayment is today, I would still want to be, still want to know what exactly I'm being charged for," said Javier Martinez.
Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (TAFEC) Executive Director Brad Shields provided the following statement:
"TAFEC has been working with Rep. Oliverson to ensure that Texas consumers are fully protected and that ER patients are able to receive the care they deserve. Additionally, we would like to see those with a financial incentive—such as health insurance companies with HQs outside of Texas—to consider the damaging consequences of their false statements. Their efforts to steer patients from the closest ER threatens to undermine the access to life-saving care that should be available to all Texans. We are grateful to Rep. Oliverson for his commitment to ensuring that patients are properly cared for and look forward to continuing to work with him as this bill makes its way through the process.”