Better Solutions for Healthcare

Texas Tribune: COVID-19 testing has become a “cash cow” for freestanding ERs in Texas, experts say. And it’s getting out of control.

By Ashley Lopez

February 4, 2021

Edgar Barguiarena and his fiancee, Marissa Javaid, wanted to see family in Houston over the holidays, so they decided to get COVID-19 tests before their trip.

Javaid noticed a drive-thru testing site at Austin Emergency Center on South Lamar. It was advertising results within 48 hours, which they thought was perfect.

“They had maybe a banner that said ‘PCR testing with a quick turnaround,’” Barguiarena said, “and we were looking for that.”

Austin Emergency Center runs four freestanding ERs in Austin. These are emergency rooms not attached to hospitals.

Barguiarena and Javaid drove out to the ER on a Monday morning right before it opened. They waited an hour and a half to get tested; then the process took another 30 minutes.

“The test itself went fairly smoothly,” he said. “We spoke to a nurse that had asked some very basic questions beforehand, and then we had a doctor come through a few minutes after that to do the actual test itself.”

Barguiarena said they gave staff their health insurance cards and were told they probably wouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket; their insurance would take care of it.

All they had to do at this point was drive away and wait for results. About two days later, they learned they were in the clear: Both tested negative for COVID-19.