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Freestanding Emergency Departments

A new report from UnitedHealth Group, "Freestanding Emergency Departments: Treating Common Conditions at Emergency Prices," highlights the recent growth in freestanding emergency departments (FSEDs), which are physically separate from hospitals, and the resulting costly out-of-pocket bills and health care premiums for FSED consumers. Based in part on UnitedHealthcare's experience in Texas, which is home to half the nation's FSEDs, the report's key findings include:

  • FSEDs largely treat non-emergent conditions: 2.3 percent of FSED visits are emergent or immediate and require services unique to an ED.
  • In Texas, the average cost of treating common conditions at an FSED ($3,217) is 22 times more than at a physician office ($146) and 19 times more than at an urgent care center ($167).
  • Shifting the site of care for common conditions in Texas from FSEDs to physician offices and urgent care centers would reduce costs by 95 percent, resulting in a savings of over $3,000 per visit.
  • FSEDs disproportionately serve relatively affluent communities that have access to other providers and higher utilization and spending.