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Local ER company pushes bill to expand emergency health care

Posted at 9:45 PM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 15:33:18-05

During a medical emergency, every moment matters. It becomes especially crucial for vulnerable populations, like the elderly and disabled. Unfortunately, trips to hospital emergency rooms often come with long wait times that can mean the difference between permanent damage or worse.

The freestanding emergency center industry was designed with those challenges in mind. Physicians Premier ER is one of the pioneers in this industry. Those freestanding facilities often provide quicker access to the same services.

Physicians Premier ER is one of several companies to have freestanding emergency centers in the Coastal Bend.

Dr. Lonnie Schwirtlich, chief medical officer for Physicians Premier ER, said, “We can check everything just like the hospital. We have CAT scan, ultrasound, X-ray all immediately available.”

They’re convenient alternatives for those with private insurance. However, current law keeps them from accepting insurance from some who need these services the most.

“Freestanding emergency rooms are not reimbursed for the care of the Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare,” Dr. Schwirtlich explained.

That’s why he and other experts have been working for months toward a bill introduced in Congress last month. It’s called the Emergency Room Improvement Act, filed by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. It would amend the Social Security Act to give Medicare and Medicaid recognition to freestanding ERs.

TLC Complete Care also has freestanding emergency rooms in Corpus Christi.

As Dr. Schwirtlich described the amendment, “So that emergency care includes not just in a hospital but also in a facility that provides emergency services and is…recognized by the state.”

The bill would also apply to veterans and active military with Tricare. The doctor said it would give those patients peace of mind about their coverage, while also giving them access to quick, quality emergency health care.

“We’re trying to widen our scope so that we can take care of everybody out there in the community.”

The bill is currently in committee. Dr. Schwirtlich says he’s been told that it may not make it to a vote until next year, when the new Congress is sworn in. But he’s urging lawmakers to take action as soon as possible.