Colorado health officials so abhor the high costs associated with free-standing emergency rooms they’re offering to pay hospitals to shut the facilities down.
The state wants hospitals to convert them to other purposes, such as providing primary care or mental health services.
At least 500 free-standing ERs have set up in more than 20 states in the past decade. Colorado has 44, 34 owned by hospitals.
The trend began a decade ago with hopes these stand-alone facilities would fill a need for ER care when no hospital was nearby and reduce congestion at hospital ERs.
But that rarely happened.
Instead, these emergency rooms — not physically connected to hospitals — generally set up in affluent suburban communities, often near hospitals that compete with the free-standing ERs’ owners. And they largely treated patients who did not need emergency care, but still billed them and their insurers at expensive ER rates, several