Patient confusion continues in Colorado and other parts of the country over the fees and services to expect at a freestanding emergency department.

A recent story from Denver highlights one woman’s story about a $5,000 bill she faced after a trip to the doctor for the flu.

Oftentimes, as seen in this case, consumers believe they are going to an urgent care center for a moderate illness or condition. Freestanding EDs can easily be confused as an immediate care facility, but they charge emergency room fees—exponentially higher than what’s charged in urgent care.

In spite of this disparity, and concerns over rising healthcare costs, the number of freestanding EDs is growing. In Colorado there were two freestanding emergency departments in 2012; by the end of summer 2016 there will be at least 35 in the state, according to a story by KUSA television.

In that report, Dr. Vivian Ho of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy expresses criticism of the freestanding emergency room model.

“Under the current model, I think freestanding emergency rooms are relying on an uninformed patient to make the profits they are earning right now,” she said. “For most people, I don’t think they’re good.”

Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Colorado estimates 60 to 70 percent of their customers who go to freestanding emergency rooms have conditions that could be treated in urgent cares. The insurance company also says the average bill from a Colorado urgent care is close to $200. The average bill at a freestanding emergency room is closer to $2,300.

Dr. Ho said, in the end, it’s largely up to the patient to know more about his or her health insurance plan.

“The more information we can get to consumers and patients about prices of health-care services, the better they’ll be able to choose a doctor or other health care provider,” Dr. Ho said.

When seeking urgent care, make sure you understand what type of facility you are visiting. And if you have any questions about insurance coverage and urgent care near Aurora, Denver, or Westminster, please reach out to any of the ZipClinic Urgent Care locations to speak with a staff member.