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DENVER — They’ve been popping up all across the Front Range, and residents may not know what they are: Free-standing ERs.
The medical centers are being built new or taking over old storefronts. Free-standing ERs provide medical care but differ greatly from urgent care centers, which are more ubiquitous in the state.
That difference is part of the problem being addressed by the state legislature in three separate bills.
One of the major issues the proposed legislation is hoping to solve is patient confusion.
Many patients seeking treatment at a standalone ER mistakenly believe they are visiting an urgent care center, which typically charges less for medical treatment but offers fewer services.
Denver7 has reported on several cases of free-standing ER patients stuck with extremely large bills.
Back in 2016, Tamara Elliot went to the UC Health Emergency Room when her doctor wasn’t available, and ended with a bill of over $5,000 after insurance.
"They should clearly state, 'We are an emergency room,' she said, "'We charge emergency room fees.'"
That exact reason is behind the Free-standing ER Consumer Notification Bill. It requires the standalone ERs to tell patients about their fees and the fact that their charges will be higher, specifically in non-emergency situations.
Senate Bill 146 passed the Senate on Tuesday and will head to the Governor’s desk. So will another bill that would require standalone ERs to use separate identification numbers from their parent hospitals to help regulators gather data on fees, visits, and more.
A third bill would require all of the free-standing ERs to have the same licensing standards as hospitals so that patients can know the quality of care is the same at both.