LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Coloradans who need medical treatment often walk into free-standing emergency rooms thinking they are simply urgent care facilities or clinic and they don’t realize what the visit will cost them. When the bill arrives, they owe thousands of dollars.

If some state lawmakers have their way, Coloradans would know the cost of a medical visit when they walk in the door of any health facility.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd interviews Jennifer Risdon. (credit: CBS)

Jennifer Risdon says when she took her son to a free-standing emergency and urgent care facility for a sore throat, she made sure it was in-network.

So when she got a bill for $841 she was stunned.

“I called my insurance provider and they told me ‘Yes, the facility is in the network, but this doctor is not in the network,” Risdon said.

“How were you supposed to know that?” CBS4’s Shaun Boyd asked.

“You tell me. I don’t know.”

She’s not alone. One patient who CBS4 isn’t identifying went in for food poisoning and left with a $4,500 tab.

“There’s no buyer beware,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer.

Singer, a Democrat from Boulder County, and state Rep. Lang Sias, a Republican from Arvada, are now calling for transparency at free-standing emergency departments.

“We’re not trying to set prices, we’re not trying to shut down businesses. But consumers have a right to know what they’re going to pay before they pay it, particularly when you’re getting these huge bills.”

State Rep.s Lang Sias, left, and Jonathan Singer, right (credit: CBS)

The two lawmakers have introduced a bill requiring that the facilities tell people up front what treatment will cost and whether it’s covered by their insurance.

“We’re saying, if this is not an emergency you should have the right to know whether or not this is going to cost you an arm and a leg to fix an arm and a leg.”

Risdon said she would have appreciated knowing what her son’s visit to the doctor was going to cost.

“List your prices out,” she said. “What it’s going to cost me if I take my son for a strep throat test.”

If the bill passes, the facilities in question will also have to post the prices of the 25 most common non-emergency procedures out in the open for everyone who walks in to see.

The bill has bipartisan support but the health care lobby will likely fight it.

  1. A sore throat calls for a doctor’s visit, not an emergency room visit. I suspect an appointment with a doctor in his office would be a lot less expensive. Perhaps, we should save the emergency room visits for real emergencies.

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