Source: Health Policy Institute of Ohio
The number of freestanding emergency departments (EDs) has rapidly grown in recent years, but a push to cut Medicare payments to these facilities may reverse the trend (Source: “Congress Urged to Cut Medicare Payments to Many Stand-Alone ERs,” Kaiser Health News, April 19, 2018).
Free-standing EDs have been cropping up in recent years and now number more than 500, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which reports to Congress. Often touted as more convenient, less crowded alternatives to hospitals, they often attract suburban walk-in patients with good insurance whose medical problems are less acute than those who visit an emergency room located in a hospital.
If a recent MedPAC proposal is adopted, however, some healthcare professionals predict that these free-standing facilities could become scarcer. Propelling the effort are concerns that MedPAC’s payment for services at these facilities is higher than it should be since the patients who visit them are sometimes not as severely injured or ill as those at on-campus facilities.
The proposal would reduce Medicare payment rates by 30% for some services at hospital-affiliated free-standing EDs that are located within 6 miles of an on-campus hospital ED.