As health-care costs spiral ever upward, hospitals race to build free-standing emergency rooms and expand existing ERs. Hospitals say it makes business sense, but critics say the hospital arms race is too costly for businesses, government and families.
With medical costs spiraling upward and state-paid insurance coverage evaporating, you might think hospitals would discourage patients with sprains and cuts from coming to their emergency rooms for care that would cost much less in clinics or urgent-care centers.
But you'd be wrong.
Hospitals throughout the Puget Sound region are in the midst of a boom, building spiffy new free-standing emergency rooms and entire hospital towers with expanded ERs, and drastically remodeling existing ones.
Swedish Medical Center and Evergreen Hospital Medical Center built free-standing ERs in Redmond, and MultiCare and Valley Medical Center plan to build them in Covington.
What's more, hospitals are marketing their ERs aggressively, crowing about amenities from valet service to private rooms. One hospital posts ER wait times online.
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