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What is EMTALA?

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted by Congress in 1986. The Act’s original intent was to make sure that patients seeking care at an emergency room were given treatment, regardless of whether they were able to pay for it.

Compliance to the EMTALA is important and necessary for emergency departments to provide safe, quality care. If a patient comes to the hospital’s property requesting care, the emergency department is obligated to see that patient. The department cannot delay treatment or seeing the patient to ask about how they plan to pay for the visit or what kind of insurance they have.

The emergency department is obligated to see the patient, determine whether or not a medical condition exists, and connect the patient to the appropriate medical services. If a patient were to refuse treatment for a condition after being properly informed of the risk, the EMTALA obligation has been fulfilled, even though treatment was not given.

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