What is EMTALA?

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was signed into federal law in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan. It is a subset of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), a large piece of legislation meant to protect people’s right to adequate healthcare. The purpose of EMTALA is to ensure that all patients requiring emergency treatment will receive it.

If you are planning to work in healthcare, or currently do so, you need to be familiar with your legal responsibilities under EMTALA. In addition to this federal law, Iowa has state-level regulations applying to dentists, clinics, and other healthcare providers. To learn more, contact Des Moines healthcare attorneys LaMarca Law Group, P.C. at (877) 327-2600.

Where EMTALA Applies

EMTALA applies to all hospitals that: a) provide emergency services, and b) receive payments from Medicare and Medicaid. Because of the near-impossibility of running a hospital without Medicaid’s support, the Act effectively applies to all hospitals. The major exceptions are:

  • Hospitals run by the Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Shriners Hospitals for Children
  • Indian Health Service hospitals

What EMTALA Requires

The Act was written to address the problem of “patient dumping,” which occurs when an uninsured or otherwise problematic patient is denied medical care. Under the law, a patient who reports to an emergency room with acute or health-threatening symptoms must be diagnosed and treated regardless of his or her ability to pay. The law specifically bans:

  • Releasing a patient before he or she is responsive and able to care for himself or herself
  • Denying treatment to a patient because he or she appears homeless, intoxicated, or mentally ill
  • Delaying treatment until a patient’s insurance information is received
  • Providing sub-standard care to uninsured patients
  • Making unfounded threats of legal action against patients who do not pay their bills

While treating all patients in need is very noble in theory, it can be very difficult in practice. A Des Moines EMTALA attorney can help your clinic operate both legally and efficiently.

Contact Us

The Des Moines healthcare lawyers of LaMarca Law Group, P.C. are ready to put their knowledge and experience to work for you. Contact our offices at (877) 327-2600.

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