SHARE 4 COMMENTMORE

LITTLETON - For Steve Kinsley, it all started when his son had signs of an allergic reaction.

"It kind of looked like he had been in a bar fight. He had a swelling right on the side of his face," Kinsley said.

It was a Friday night and they went to what he thought was a nearby urgent care clinic in Littleton.

"We were in there for probably less than 20 minutes. They dispensed an antibiotic to him, a generic antibiotic."

Urgent care providers say they usually charge about $150 for medical services similar to those Kinsley sought.

A few weeks later, though, when Kinsley got the bill. "Shock! I was like-'wow!'" he said.

The total: more than $2,000.

It turns out, Kinsley hadn't gone to urgent care. He had taken his son to what's known as a freestanding emergency room. They are generally affiliated with a hospital, but not attached to one.

They charge hospital emergency room prices, because they are able to provide more services than urgent care.

"I'm used an emergency room being attached to a hospital," Kinsley said. "I don't think I've ever experienced a freestanding emergency room."

There are 15 such standalone ER's across the state. The key word "emergency" has special status and can only be used in marking emergency rooms.

The freestanding ER that the Kinsley family used is one of four in Colorado run by HealthONE. In a statement to 9NEWS, a spokesperson for HealthONE said there is a reason for the higher price.

"The facility provides a different level of care than an urgent care facility," said Stephanie Sullivan, director of media relations and community affairs at HealthONE. "Free standing ERs are open and available for unscheduled care 24 hours a day, while most urgent care clinics close in the evening. In addition, freestanding ERs cannot turn anyone away based on ability to pay."

Steve Kinsley says it's a tough lesson learned and, in the future, he'll be very careful in distinguishing between an urgent care facility and a free standing emergency room.

"Bad on me, for not asking upfront," he said. "It is a little bit buyer beware."

The Colorado Hospital Association, a group which represents hospitals, including those that run freestanding ERs, declined to comment on our story.

Experts say the best thing to do to avoid what happened to the Kinsleys, is to know in advance where you'd want to go, if you ever need medical treatment.

For a list of where the 15 freestanding ERs are located, click here

SHARE 4 COMMENTMORE