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What is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act?

If you do not have medical insurance, you may not seek medical care due to the expense. You may also have a hard time getting medical care once a doctor finds out you have no coverage. However, if you need emergency medical treatment at a New York hospital, you can go in and be seen even if you have no insurance or cannot pay right then, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. This is a right guaranteed to you under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. 

The EMTALA was enacted in 1986 by Congress. This federal law obligates hospital emergency departments to treat every person that comes in their doors. An ER must see you and assess your condition. If they cannot treat you, they must transfer you to another hospital that must accept you for treatment. 

Many people go to emergency rooms for care because they cannot afford treatment otherwise or because they do not have insurance. If you are seeking such medical care, you will get treated for the immediate situation. The ER is not obligated to provide ongoing care to you under the EMTALA. Once you are stabilized, the obligation ends. 

Under this Act, an emergency is defined as any condition that could cause you physical harm if not treated. The EMTALA requires the ER to treat you for any such condition and it also requires the ER to screen you for any emergency condition you believe you have. This information is for education and is not legal advice. 

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