Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA)
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EMTALA requires any hospital that accepts payments from Medicare to provide care to any patient who arrives in its emergency department for treatment, regardless of the patient’s citizenship, legal status in the United States or ability to pay for the services. EMTALA applies to ambulance and hospital care.
EMTALA was developed to combat “patient dumping,” the practice of refusing to treat people who did not have the ability to pay for healthcare services. It guarantees those with insufficient means to get medical help.
In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Hospitals are then required to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with EMCs. If a hospital is unable to stabilize a patient within its capability, or if the patient requests, an appropriate transfer should be implemented.