FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 02/08/2021
State Representative James White Files Bill to Expand Access to Healthcare for More Texans
(Austin, TX) - State Representative James White has filed House Bill (HB) 472 which seeks to expand health care options for Texans by allowing Freestanding Emergency Centers (FECs) to offer outpatient acute care services in addition to emergency medical services.
“Texas must utilize every health care resource available as citizens throughout the state face hospital overcrowding and, in some parts, rationing of care,” said Representative White.
HB 472 would expand FEC licensure to include acute care services in addition to emergency care. Acute care services or outpatient care includes radiology, laboratory work, immunizations, and other non-emergency physician services. HB 472 also clarifies the distinct pricing difference between emergency and outpatient care by prohibiting an emergency facility fee for outpatient services.
“Freestanding Emergency Centers are a high-quality, under-utilized resource in our state that could help with critical access to care and ease the burden on our healthcare system during the pandemic and the vaccination process,” said Representative White. “Texans deserve more options when deciding which medical provider to use and the demands of the pandemic have made that clearer than ever.”
HB 472 is similar to a bill Representative White filed during the 86th legislative session that was unanimously voted out of the House Public Health Committee, but which never made it to the House floor. If it had been signed into law, FECs would have been able to offer outpatient services throughout the pandemic, greatly easing the overcrowding faced by hospitals throughout the state and providing access to care in rural areas where hospital closures have diminished Texans’ healthcare resources.
Freestanding ERs have been recognized by the federal government as a valuable resource during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) provided a temporary waiver that allows Freestanding ERs to receive reimbursement for treating Medicare patients during the public health emergency, providing elderly, disabled and under-served Texans with valuable healthcare options, and in December, the U.S. Congress passed a year-end spending package, which included bipartisan language to protect patients from getting “surprise” medical bills. The landmark legislation added Freestanding ERs into federal statute for the first time.
Please do not hesitate to contact Saul Mendoza, Chief of Staff, with questions regarding this release at 512-463-0490 or 409-283-3700.