Emergency Room Care – Know Your Rights!

A good number of Americans, actually more than 60% of Americans do not know their fundamental medical rights. This is astonishing but it is true. Most of us normally visit hospitals or emergency rooms and receive care without even caring about our rights. We most of the time assume that the doctors and physicians will do the right thing and we therefore sheepishly follow whatever the physicians ask us to do.

Often, people do not realize their specific rights at the time of their care because those rights are either not clearly defined or included in a bundle of papers that patients need to sign during registration. The fact that these rights and rules keep changing almost every year, make it even harder for the citizens to even understand them and demand to be served right every time we are at the emergency department.

Thanks to the Emergency Medical Training & Active Labour though, you can easily read and understand your rights as an emergency room visitor. We have highlighted some of the most commonly omitted rights and have explained it to you to make you remain more vigil every time you visit an emergency room. Here are some of the rights you should know as stated by the EMTALA;

Before we take a look at what the rights are, we want to briefly explain what EMTALA is. EMTALA is a federal law that requires hospitals to provide emergency treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. EMTALA helps to make sure that hospitals do not shun away patients who are uninsured, under-insured or unable to pay for emergency care at the time of emergency. These are rights and policies that keep changing every year depending on the federal law changes on insurance policies but we have highlighted some of the most important rights under EMTALA.

What Are My Rights Under EMTALA?

1 Hospital must make the rules clear for reference

The hospital or emergency room must post a sign in the emergency room notifying you of your rights under EMTALA. If you can’t see a post with the said rules and rights, you are at liberty to ask to talk to the supervisor because that is a violation of your rights. This is one of the things that emergency rooms and hospitals use to extort people. They hide these rights and will make them inaccessible to the patients.

2. Comprehensive screening is your right

If you go to the emergency room and request treatment, the hospital must screen you to determine whether you are suffering from an emergency medical condition. The hospital may not delay screening you to inquire about your insurance or immigration status or ability to pay. You are entitled to triage, examination and screening whether you can or cannot be able to pay for the same.

3. If you are in an emergency, the hospital must treat and stabilize your condition

If the hospital determines that you are experiencing an emergency medical condition, the hospital must either stabilize you or transfer you to an appropriate facility. They should not seek to know whether you will be able to pay for the same or not. The priority should be treating you.

4. You are entitled to be transferred to appropriate hospitals or facilities

You may only be transferred to an appropriate facility or hospital. Some hospitals and emergency rooms will want to transfer you away from their facilities because they feel you will not be able to pay for the treatment they will offer. You are however entitled to transfer to other facilities if the current emergency room does not have the capability to fully stabilize your situation and treat you well enough.

There are other important things about EMTALA that you should know and we have highlighted a few of them below;

EMTALA only applies to emergencies. It does not cover long-term or follow-up care. Once you are discharged after your emergency, EMTALA rights will no longer be applicable to your case.
If the hospital screens you and determines that you are not experiencing a medical emergency, the hospital doesn’t have to provide you with further treatment. You have to be in an emergency to qualify for EMTALA rights cover.

EMTALA only requires hospitals to treat you during an emergency. Hospitals can still bill you for the care they provided. It does not mean that you will be receiving free treatment, no! EMTALA actually serves to protect the uninsured, the underinsured and the underprivileged in the society to receive medical care because they otherwise would not be treated. No emergency room or hospital wants to run risk of getting a loss by treating you and you end up not paying. EMTALA however, requires that hospitals and emergency rooms treat you and then seek for payment later.

Once you are admitted to the hospital and become an in-patient, EMTALA no longer applies. The coverage is only for emergency situations and once you are stable, you are no longer under EMTALA.