Mercy's ER Policy Raises Concerns

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 12:00 am  

“We realize that it’s not a perfect system that fixes everything,” he said.

But it would be cheaper for the nonemergency patient to have a bill that’s around $50 from a walk-in clinic as opposed to one that’s $2,000 from an emergency room.

Mercy in Fort Smith sees about 52,000 patients a year in its emergency room.


Other Hospitals Do It

Paul Cunningham, senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said the policy is what hospitals are supposed to do.

“If there is no true emergency then … hospitals have the option to treat that patient if they want,” Cunningham said. Medicaid had been working “for years” to get hospitals to refer nonemergency patients to primary care doctors, he said.

The other hospital in Fort Smith, Sparks Regional Medical Center, also has a similar policy in place, said Trevis Walker, a registered nurse and clinical manager of emergency services for the hospital.

Nonemergency patients without insurance have to pay a co-pay of $200 if they want to be treated at Sparks’ emergency room. The co-pay for those with insurance is $150.

Walker said the emergency room sees about 190 to 210 people a day and only four or five of them are regarded as nonemergency. “We are not trying to deter people from coming to the ER,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure that they use the appropriate place.”



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