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Understanding EMTALA

Written by Berkowitz

Connecticut EMTALA Attorneys - Berkowitz and Hanna LLCEveryone experiences a medical emergency of some sort in their lifetime – whether it is in their hometown or while visiting someone out of town. When this happens, a person has a reasonable expectation to know that they will receive medical attention if they were to arrive to an emergency room. And, they equally expect that their medical care will be given despite their ability to pay, insurance, race, sex or national origin. EMTALA is a federal law that was created to ensure individuals in medical emergencies receive such care.

What is EMTALA?

Known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, this law was passed by Congress in 1986. It is also referred to casually as the “Anti-Dumping Act.” It was passed as a remedy for the growing number of hospitals that would dump their critical condition patients into public facilities without providing adequate medical treatment – and often because they could not pay. All medical facilities must abide by the EMTALA, including Medicare-participating hospitals with emergency rooms.

While EMTALA was mainly created to ensure that those without insurance received emergency medical care, it equally applies to anyone that enters an emergency room facility in the United States in need of medical attention.

EMTALA is a right of action and allows individuals to file a lawsuit against a physician or hospital if they are injured or do not receive such provisions.

The Three Provisions of EMTALA

There are three mandatory provisions that all medical professionals must abide by under EMTALA. These include:

  1. The patient is entitled to a medical screening examination to determine if they actually have a medical emergency.
  2. The emergency health staff must first stabilize the patient’s condition before they can transfer them to a more suitable facility.
  3. The facility that is better able to treat the patient and their respective condition are obligated to admit the patient into their hospital for treatment – whether the patient can pay or not.

Under EMTALA, a stabilizing treatment is required in an emergency medical condition. The law stipulates that an emergency medical condition is one that has manifested itself by acute symptoms or with sufficient severity (including uncontrollable pain) such that the absence of medical attention could result in jeopardizing the patient’s health even further or result in serious impairment.

A facility is required to administer a reasonable medical screening examination to determine if the patient has an emergency medical condition. Then, they must move to the second provision under the law before they can move the patient to another facility.

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