Emergency room sign Colorado's move is part of a new initiative that requires hospitals to improve their quality of care to qualify for millions of dollars in Medicaid payments. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Colorado health officials so abhor the high costs associated with free-standing emergency rooms they're offering to pay hospitals to shut the facilities down.

The state wants hospitals to convert them to other purposes, such as providing primary care or mental health services.

At least 500 free-standing ERs have set up in more than 20 states in the past decade. Colorado has 44, of which 34 are owned by hospitals.

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