WOODBURY, Minn - When Kent Sklarow tried to fix his car after a fender-bender, his hand slipped.

“My hand just went into the fender and I cut myself open right here," Sklarow said. "My bill says, 'Repair 2.5-centimeter wound.’"

He wanted to see a doctor. So he pulled into the closest medical facility, The Urgency Room in Woodbury, which because of its name, Urgency, he figured was an urgent care clinic.

Kent Sklarow (Photo: KARE 11)
Kent Sklarow (Photo: KARE 11)

But as Kent and others have discovered, a tiny difference in a name can mean a big difference in the price you’ll pay.

“It was around $700," Sklarow said. More than $700 for a doctor to close the 2.5-centimeter cut and apply medical glue.

That’s because the Urgency Room he went to isn't a popular, low-cost urgent care clinic.

It’s what’s known as a free-standing emergency room, featuring equipment like a CT scanner and ultrasound -- similar to a hospital ER.

Kent's cut (Photo: KARE 11)
Kent's cut (Photo: KARE 11)

Kent learned the Urgency Room's prices are also closer to a hospital ER, too.

“I was surprised," Sklarow said.

Freestanding ERs have exploded in states like Colorado where dozens of patients have come forward with concerns just like Kent's.

“It ended up being $3,690 to get a sliver taken out of my thumb," Jeff Nixon told KARE's sister station KUSA after a visit to a freestanding ER.

“It's about $3,400 for six stitches. Honestly, it sucks," Teresa Linder told KUSA.

The Urgency Room (Photo: KARE 11)
The Urgency Room (Photo: KARE 11)

So, how do prices at free-standing ERs such as The Urgency Room compare?

KARE 11 asked Minnesota insurance company HealthPartners, which also operates urgent care clinics.

Their research shows freestanding emergency rooms are less expensive than hospital ERs, but they still average more than twice the price of an urgent care clinic.

According to HealthPartners, a cough averages $140 to treat at urgent care and $330 at a freestanding ER. Stomach pain treatment: $150 at urgent care and $800 on average at freestanding ERs.

And what about Kent’s finger? HealthPartners estimates that $700 cut at Urgency Room would likely have cost Kent about $140 had he pulled into an urgent care clinic.

Cost comparisons (Photo: KARE 11)
Cost comparisons (Photo: KARE 11)

Kent says no one inside The Urgency Room warned him the wound might be a little minor for what they offer there.

"And why would they? It's meant to make money," Sklarow said.

The Urgency Room's website includes the frequently-asked question: "Will it cost more?"

The company answers by saying that the Urgency Room is a "cost-effective alternative to an emergency room visit in a hospital."

But there’s no warning on the website or inside the facilities we visited that they can be far more expensive than traditional urgent care clinics.

And as KARE 11 began investigating, we discovered there’s more than just cost at stake.

Unlike some other states, Minnesota doesn't license freestanding ERs because it considers them clinics, not hospitals.

However, the state has rules on how clinics can advertise, barring words like "emergency," "emergent," and "critical." Those are all terms used on the Urgency Room's website.

The Urgency Room (Photo: KARE 11)
The Urgency Room (Photo: KARE 11)


We wanted to ask about that. But neither the Minnesota Health Department nor the Urgency Room would agree to an on-camera interview.

In an email, an Urgency Room representative said their website lists "… the services we offer, in an appropriate contextual manner."

For Kent, his complaint has nothing to do with the quality of the care. It’s the confusing name and the big bill he got.

“I didn't have a problem with the care I received. I just shouldn't be paying close to double for what is someone putting glue on my hand,” Sklarow said. “There's nothing special about that. The nurse could have done that."

If you’ve gotten a medical bill that you think is outrageously high, we’d like to hear about it. Send us your story at investigations@kare11.com