Freestanding Emergency Center (FEC) Industry Lobbying Goes to Washington
Date Posted: Thursday,
June 08, 2023
In early February, members of the National Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (NAFEC) went to Washington D.C. to meet with various members of Congress to gain support for two items: the continued recognition of Freestanding Emergency Centers post pandemic and for oversight of the No Surprises Act Independent Dispute Resolution process.
During the pandemic, Freestanding Emergency Centers (FECs) provided critical relief to the overcrowding of medical facilities across the state of Texas. This was made possible in April 2020 when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance allowing independent FECs to provide care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries during the public health emergency. Since this time, over 100 facilities across the state of Texas enrolled and became critical health resources within their communities. The current administration has determined that the public health emergency is no longer needed and set to expire on May 11, 2023. With that end, so does the recognition of FECs by CMS. Members of the NAFEC delegation met with members of the Texas delegation to Congress to stress how the loss of access to these facilities will impact the communities that they serve within their districts. In addition, the NAFEC delegation asked for bipartisan support for the Emergency Care Improvement Act (H.R. 8597), to be re-filed again this Congress, which would improve Medicare beneficiary access to emergency care in rural areas and improve access and competition in urban areas by providing permanent Medicare and Medicaid recognition of FECs.
Enacted in 2020, the No Surprises Act (NSA) was meant to protect consumers' out-of-pocket liability for surprise medical bills when receiving out-of-network healthcare. Among other things, the bill established a federal independent dispute resolution process (IDR) to resolve out-of-network payment disputes between providers and insurers. Unfortunately, the implementation of the NSA has not gone smoothly, and the IDR process is riddled with issues causing major delays in the IDR process, which is paying providers a fraction of their typical reimbursement, delaying payment, and putting routine claims into arbitration. The NAFEC delegation has asked for more oversight of the IDR process and the implementation of the NSA. The IDR process as a whole has already put a significant strain on many providers and the continued lack of clear guidance and oversight will continue to put patient access to critical emergency care at risk.
It is critical, no matter the type of practice, to continue to use the appropriate channels to bring visibility to these and many other issues. Only through united persistence can providers hope to make an impact. Please contact your representative today and show your support.
Matt Tamez, CPCO, CPB,
is the Chief Operating Officer at Phoenix Coding & Consulting Services, a Texas-based coding company that works with many FECs across Texas. www.phoenixccs.com