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Federal law prohibits hospitals from denying care to patients

All doctors working in hospital emergency rooms in the United States are required to medically screen patients who come in seeking help regardless of whether they have insurance or the means to pay. This is legally mandated under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which went into effect in 1986.

EMTALA was enacted to deter hospitals from being able to turn away prospective patients in need because they appeared to not have the means to pay. Once the legislation was passed, hospitals were required to examine patients and provide them with adequate treatment before they attempted to transfer them to somewhere else if they needed additional care.

Hospital administrators were less than happy when this bill was passed and initially tried to shift responsibility for these patients to facilities accepting Medicare benefits.

Legislators responded by enacting an amended bill, which would fine doctors or hospitals $50,000 for each instance in which they denied an individual medical care. They could also lose their Medicare certification if they didn't treat them. During the 26-month period starting in January 2013, 29 violations were recorded.

Any individual that comes into a hospital emergency room complaining of severe pain or some type of acute condition must receive an immediate assessment under three circumstances. These include if their bodily functions are impaired, their life is in imminent danger or their organs are malfunctioning,

If they present with one of these symptoms, then doctors are required to do whatever is necessary to diagnose and stabilize the patient. This may include evaluating, providing specialist care or performing tests on them.

The types of facilities that are required to adhere to EMTALA include any place that promotes itself to the public as offering care for emergency medical conditions. Outpatient clinics that see more than 33 percent of their patients for unscheduled visits for emergency conditions are also generally covered by EMTALA.

Despite the severe penalties that exist for doctors and hospitals who decide to refuse to see patients, they continue to get dumped. While most who do may end up finding someone else to help them, others die because they're unable to get adequate care. Even if your situation ultimately did resolve itself, a Tampa medical malpractice attorney may advise you that you're eligible for compensation for your pain and suffering.

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