We here at the Advocate, like much of Lakewood, have made something of a joke out of the never-ending string of free-standing ERs that dot East Dallas. Are we really that sick as a collective neighborhood that we necessitate an ER on every corner? Because we have a lake and associated recreational activities, do ER companies assume we’re more prone to accidents and see dollar signs? It’s hard to say exactly why they favor us so heavily, but it appears we’ve reached the tipping point, because we just saw our first closure. 

Excellence ER of Lakewood, which took up residence in the Skillman-Live Oak Shopping Center in 2014, has shuttered its operation. The business covered its signs with a tarp, shut down its social media page, and put out a sign telling people to call 911 in case of emergency. The Houston-based company expanded to Dallas, San Antonio and Plano all in the same year, but now only list locations in Livingston and Wallisville, Texas, on its website.

As we wrote about in March, there is a lot of speculation, even from industry leaders, over whether this business model can survive longterm. Since freestanding ERs are known to be more expensive than an urgent care visit, expected of driving up health care costs, not to mention misleading when it comes to prices, some wonder if consumers will keep buying in. A recent Washington Post article investigated Texas’ affinity for free-standing ERs and its impact on the health care system as a whole. “Texas’s crowded landscape of ERs and clinics may seem like a consumer paradise, in which people are able to shop around. But it lays bare a simple truth: It’s hard to shop when no one knows what anything costs,” Carolyn Johnson wrote.

The unclear pricing has become such a widespread problem, the Texas Legislature is considering a bill to protect consumers from “surprise bills” at such facilities.

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