Law 101: Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

Law 101: Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)
Law 101: Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

Quiz: The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) applies to: 

a)      All hospitals 

b)      Medicare-participating hospitals 

c)       Military hospitals 

d)      Walk-in clinics 

e)      All of the above

Enacted in 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, commonly known as EMTALA, is a Federal law that requires anyone coming to almost any emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. The Act has been referred to as the “anti-dumping” law as it was designed to prevent hospitals from transferring uninsured or Medicaid patients.

Who does the law apply to?

EMTALA applies to any hospital/health-system that accepts payment from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Medicare program for services provided to beneficiaries of that program. Practically speaking, this means it applies to almost all hospitals in the United States, aside from some private hospitals (such as Shriners' Hospitals for Children) and military hospitals. The provisions of the act are applicable to all patients, however, not just Medicare patients. The purpose is to screen and treat the emergency medical conditions of patients in a non-discriminatory manner, regardless of ability to pay, insurance status, national origin, race, creed or color. In the year 2000, Congress made EMTALA enforcement a priority, and in that year collected $1.17 million in fines, nearly as much as in the first 10 years (about $1.8 million) of the statute combined.  

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