HOUSTON – KPRC 2 investigates has exposed doctors and businesses that are billing shocking amounts for COVID-19 tests that are supposed to be free.
State lawmakers noticed and they passed a new law that makes price gouging for tests and vaccines during the pandemic illegal.
The new law and enforcement of it is complaint driven. That is why you should file a complaint any time you see freestanding ERs price gouging for COVID tests or vaccines.
What the new law says
The statute does these three things:
- Makes it illegal for freestanding ERs to charge an individual or third-party (like your insurance company) a facility fee or an observation fee for a drive thru service
- Requires the businesses disclose the prices they charge for COVID tests, vaccines and any other associated fees
- Prohibits freestanding ERs from charging more than 200% for the same or similar service offered by healthcare facilities in the same or nearest county during a declared state of disaster (like the COVID-19 pandemic)
Texas AARP lobbied in favor of the bill after hearing so many complaints of egregious charges from freestanding ERs for simple COVID tests.
“We have this unique healthcare need tied to this disaster,” said AARP Associate State Director Blake Hutson. “You can’t do things that are price gouging that are harmful to consumers, taking advantage of that disaster. It’s ridiculous and now at least in these narrow cases, it’s against the law.”
Stiff penalties for violating the law
If freestanding ER’s violate the new law, they can be charged a $10,000 fine for the first offense.
On the second offense, the facility’s license can be suspended for 30 days and they’ll get a $50,000 fine.
On the third offense, the business would lose its license to operate.
The law that took effect Sept. 1, 2021 is complaint driven. If a freestanding ER in Texas does any of the things mentioned above, you should report it to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state agency that licenses free standing ERs. You can file complaints here.