Are Hospital ERs required to treat all patients?

Are Hospital ERs required to treat all patients?

There are many healthcare providers in the American healthcare system. All of these providers have different functionalities and adhere to different rules and regulations that guide them. Due to this complexity in the healthcare system, it is easy for patients to be confused. Bellaire ER has decided to compose this article to enlighten patients on hospital ERs, how they function and how they differ from other types of ERs.

Hospital ERs

Hospital emergency rooms are the most common type ER. These are emergency rooms that are attached to a hospital and offer quality care to patients with emergency cases.

The hospital ERs differ from freestanding emergency centers (FEC) in that the hospital ERs are located at the site of the hospital while the FECs are physically detached from the affiliated hospital. An FEC also doesn’t have to be affiliated to a hospital as it can be independently run.

Despite these differences, hospital ERs as well as FECs, whether hospital owned or independently run, offer the same kind of medical care for their patients. The emergency rooms provide quality care to patients with a health emergency by prioritizing them an offering quality and timely care.

Hospital ERs also accept Medicare and Medicaid insured patients since they are recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is unlike the independent FECs which are not recognized by this body, and hence they can’t accept the government-run health insurance plans. Hospital ERs are also required to put up notices to inform their patients that they accept Medicare and Medicaid.

Emergency care

The hospital ERs also have to abide by the federal regulations regarding emergency care. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) is one of the most prominent federal regulations regarding emergency care. This Act requires the hospital ERs to offer emergency treatment to all patients regardless of their ability to pay. In other words, the hospital ERs are required to treat all patients who visit them with a problem that can be considered as a health emergency.

The hospital ERs should offer the emergency care without discrimination to all people regardless of their financial or insurance status, gender, age or race.

Hospital owned FECs are also required to adhere to EMTALA. In contrast, independent FECs are not required to follow EMTALA, and hence they can deny emergency care to a patient if he or she doesn’t have the ability to pay. However, in some states, such as Texas, there are state laws that mirror EMTALA and require the independent FECs to offer emergency care to all patients.

When a patient visits a hospital ER for emergency treatment, he or she has to undergo proper screening and be stabilized before the hospital can discuss payment with them. In Texas, the law mandates that insurers should reimburse for the cost of emergency care to a patient at an in-network rate even if the hospital ER is out of network. This law also applies to FECs.

Non-emergency care

When dealing with non-emergency care, hospital ERs might turn a patient away if he/she doesn’t have the ability to pay. This is for the privately owned hospitals. Patients with non-emergency cases cannot be turned away at a public hospital ER.


Hospital ERs might be hard to access for many patients. This is because hospitals are usually located on the outskirts of cities. This is one of the reasons why FECs are a necessity. FECs can be located closer to where people are such as in neighborhoods and shopping centers. The quick accessibility provided by the FECs proves critical in emergency situations as every second counts. The FECs, therefore, help to reduce the travel time for emergency cases.

The only advantage when visiting a hospital ER compared to an FEC is in hospital transfers. In hospital ERs, a patient who needs to be admitted is ushered into the hospital with minimal effort. If the ER is an FEC, the patient will need to be transported to the hospital.


Hospital ERs are notorious for overcrowding as many people come here to seek medical attention. The overcrowding causes a strain on resources the staff struggle to offer quality care to all patients.

Since ERs prioritize emergencies over other treatments, people with non-emergency problems can experience extremely long wait times, especially if there is are multiple emergencies.

This is one of the reasons why patients might prefer to visit an FEC instead of a hospital ER. FECs are rarely crowded, and they offer quality care. The wait times in FECs might be less than 10 minutes. Since the FECs are not overcrowded, the doctor can take some quality time to diagnose you correctly. Also, emergency cases can be attended to immediately with the full array of physicians and medical equipment on standby.

In summary, hospital ERs can treat all patients, but they are not required to unless it’s in a public hospital. The hospital ERs are, however, required to treat all emergency patients.