Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stand-alone emergency rooms popping up

English: A roadside sign at Santa Clara Valley...
When Lisa Boncler gashed the side of her head on the gate to her front yard, she immediately called her neighbor for a ride to the emergency room.

In this fast-growing Houston suburb, six ERs are just a short drive away. She chose Texas Emergency Care Center, a facility that feels like a Western lodge with its earth-toned brick walls, leather chairs and coffee bar. The eight-bed ER that opened last year has almost everything — except, that is, an attached hospital.

"This is so convenient," says a smiling Boncler, 40, as a doctor prepared to close her wound with medical staples less than an hour after her accident. "I've been here before. It's always fast."

The speedier care offered at such facilities, which are springing up in many states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, comes at a steep cost, however. Stand-alone ERs, which are often located near high-end shopping centers and target consumers with private insurance, bill like regular emergency rooms. Those prices, which can top $1,000 for a single visit, are spurring worries that the rapid growth of the facilities will lead to higher insurance premiums. Read more >>
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