What does the law require?

There are three main obligations created by EMTALA:

– Any person who comes to the emergency department and requests it, must receive a medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition exists. The hospital or staff may not delay the exam and treatment in order to ask about methods of payment or insurance.

– If an emergency medical condition exists, treatment must be provided until the condition is resolved or the patient is stabilized. If the hospital does not have the capacity or ability to treat the emergency medical condition, an appropriate transfer to another hospital must be done in accordance with EMTALA provisions.

– Hospitals with specialized capabilities are obligated to accept transfers from hospitals which lack the capability to treat unstable emergency medical conditions.

What is considered an “emergency medical condition”?

EMTALA defines an emergency medical condition as “a condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in placing the individual’s health [or the health of an unborn child] in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of bodily organs.”