Mississippi hospital ends ER fee for nonemergencies


Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb is ending a policy that required patients to pay $200 upfront for nonemergency services in the emergency department, according to the Enterprise-Journal.

The policy, implemented in January 2017, was ended because of  changes to computer systems and procedures, according to the report.

"Now, when people needing primary care come into the emergency room, they go to the primary care system and not the emergency department," Norman Price, the hospital's CEO, told the Enterprise-Journal.

When the $200 emergency department fee was  implemented, half of the hospital's 50,000 emergency department visits were for nonemergency services, according to Mr. Price. He told the Enterprise-Journal many of the nonemergency visits also weren't paid for, and the hospital, amid diminishing Medicaid reimbursement, was subsidizing contracts with companies that provide emergency department physicians.

The goal of the fee was to move admission and billing related to nonemergency services away from the emergency department to primary care.

Due to current systems and procedures, "we can channel people someplace that's not as expensive," Mr. Price told the Enterprise-Journal. "Emergency physicians are not there for primary care. Their contract is not for that. The primary care people are employees of the hospital."

He told the publication people who go to the emergency department for primary care will still be charged.


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