Patients, politicians, and insurers have been united in complaining that freestanding emergency rooms don’t offer sufficient transparency when it comes to billing practices, but that hasn’t stopped hedge-fund guru Steven Cohen from gobbling up 5% of First Choice Emergency Rooms parent company Adeptus Health. The backlash against freestanding ERs has coincided with a growing awareness that urgent care is a viable, more accessible, and less expensive option for many patients. A study by Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Colorado found that up to 70% of its members went to freestanding ERs for conditions that could have been treated safely at less than 10% of the cost in an urgent care center ($200 in urgent care vs $2300 in the freestanding ER, on average). The National Institutes of Health has estimated that $4.4 billion could be saved by patients seeking care for nonemergent symptoms in urgent care or office settings instead of freestanding emergency rooms. As of last year, there were approximately 500 freestanding emergency rooms in the U.S., compared with over 5,000 full-service EDs and nearly 7,100 urgent care centers, per the Urgent Care Association of America.
Despite Poor Comparisons vs Urgent Care, Hedge Fund Gambles on Freestanding ERs