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ACEP Encouraged by Efforts to Protect Patients' Rights to Emergency Care

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) today is encouraged by the efforts of members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to ensure that the prudent layperson standard for coverage of emergency services is included in the Patients' Bill of Rights Act (S. 326). ACEP further applauds passage of the Hutchinson-Enzi Amendment to the bill, which will protect people in emergency situations by allowing them to go to the nearest emergency department without incurring additional costs or co-payment charges. The amendment was sponsored by Senators Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) and Michael B. Enzi (R-WY).

"The amendment removes a significant barrier to emergency care, stating that under the prudent layperson standard, a patient will not incur any higher co-payment or liability for seeking emergency services outside their network," said Dr. John Moorhead, president of ACEP. "Patients should be able to access emergency care whenever and wherever they need it. We urge Congress to pass meaningful patient protection legislation this year."

ACEP continues to advocate passage of patient protection legislation that provides all Americans with coverage for emergency services consistent with the prudent layperson standard. This standard, which is now law in 26 states, requires managed care plans to cover emergency services without prior authorization and based on a patient's symptoms, not his or her final diagnosis. It also was enacted by Congress in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 as the standard for Medicare and Medicaid patients and is included in S.326.

Dr. Moorhead said that ACEP has consistently advocated for uniform ground rules for coordinating "post-stabilization" services between emergency physicians and managed care plans and was disappointed that Senator Patty Murray's (D-WA) amendment on post-stabilization was defeated. Her amendment would have ensured appropriate consultation and timely care between attending emergency physicians and health plans - guaranteeing better coordination of patient care.

In addition, the Republican Patients' Bill of Rights currently only covers 48 million people in self-insured health plans; ACEP supports efforts to extend this protection to all 161 million Americans in private health insurance.

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The American College of Emergency Physicians is a medical specialty society representing nearly 20,000 physicians who specialize in emergency medicine. ACEP is dedicated to improving emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Government Services.

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