Neighbors ER: Market saturation forced closure of College Station location

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - One of the many free-standing emergency rooms that have popped up around town is no longer open for business.

Neighbors Emergency Center on University Drive across from the campus had only been open since October of 2016. At least 30 employees lost their positions with the closure last weekend.

The Houston-based company says the local market is simply too saturated with freestanding ERs.

In a statement to KBTX, a spokesperson for the company says, the entire industry is “compressing due to oversaturation in some markets. College station is fortunate to have multiple points of access to care in the community. Many towns across Texas, especially in rural areas, are not as lucky.”

Dr. Andy Wilson of Caprock ER, the first free-standing ER in College Station, says while over saturation locally is a concern, there's also an ongoing battle between all types of licensed emergency rooms and insurance companies. He says that's also making it difficult to stay in business.

“Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars to try and convince their enrollees that emergency care is ever out of network,” said Wilson.

The Texas Department of Insurance says under the law you can go to any emergency room, but payment responsibilities may vary depending on the type of insurance plan you carry.

A spokesperson sent KBTX the following statement:

“Consumers in a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan or exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan who get emergency care from an out-of-network provider in an emergency situation aren’t responsible for amounts above their normal copay's and coinsurance for in-network care. Consumers with coverage through preferred provider organizations (PPO) who get out-of-network care may be balance billed even for emergency services – meaning the consumer may be responsible for the amount not paid by the plan.”

Wilson says balance billing is usually not the practice of most free-standing emergency rooms.

“It will always be in network,” said Wilson. “If it’s not appeal it and we will appeal it with you and we will win.”

The Texas Department of Insurance says it’s a good idea to know the closest emergency room in your health plan's provider network.