HB19-1010 (Mullica & Landgraf/Gardner & Pettersen) Freestanding Emergency Departments Licensure
This bill requires the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to create a new health facility license for freestanding emergency departments and to begin issuing these licenses by December 1, 2021. To continue operating in the state, freestanding emergency departments must be licensed by the CDPHE within six months, by July 1, 2022. Freestanding emergency departments are facilities that offer emergency care that operate either independent from a hospital or are an extension of a hospital but not collocated with that hospital.
The Children’s Campaign supports this bill. Proper licensure would ensure that freestanding emergency departments cannot charge an emergency department facilities fee without operating as fully functional emergency department. Under the new proposed license, many freestanding emergency departments would be required to either ramp up their services or seek a different, less costly classification, such as urgent care. Colorado is the state with the third-highest number of freestanding emergency departments, most of which are located in higher-income suburban areas relatively close to urgent care centers or traditional emergency departments. Coloradans tend to use freestanding emergency departments for non-life-threatening conditions similar to those conditions for which they also seek care at urgent care facilities, but can be charged much more for these services at a freestanding emergency department. For example, receiving care for bronchitis at a freestanding emergency department can cost nearly $1,000, 10 times more than at an urgent care facility. Currently Colorado has only very limited requirements around the establishment of these facilities and has largely been unsuccessful at ensuring that they are being used to increase access to care in rural areas.
Passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 24-8 and now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.