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

What are the penalties for violating EMTALA?

Both CMS and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have administrative enforcement powers with regard to EMTALA violations. Penalties may include fines of up to $50,000 for hospitals and physicians, termination of the hospital or physician’s Medicare provider agreement, and private civil suits.

How can you protect yourself?

If you work in the emergency department, be aware that patients must be given a medical screening, and cannot be transferred elsewhere unless they have been stabilized, or if no emergency condition exists. Be wary of assumptions, such as the hospital staff who assumed the intoxicated patient was simply intoxicated. Take good notes, detailing the patient’s condition, what tests were ordered, and what the diagnosis was. 

Quiz Answer: B. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) applies to Medicare-participating hospitals. Since almost all hospitals participate in Medicare, the law is applicable to almost all hospitals with just a few exceptions.