Access to Emergency Care: Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986.
In 1986, Congress passed legislation ensuring that all members of the public have access to emergency treatment regardless of the ability to pay. This means that if you go to the emergency department and you have a medical emergency or are in labor, you have the right to receive, within the capabilities of the institution:
- an appropriate medical screening evaluation
- necessary stabilizing treatment (including treatment for an unborn child)
- appropriate transfer to another facility, as needed
These services are available even if you cannot pay or do not have health insurance or are not entitled to Medicare or Medicaid. Most health insurance plans will cover you for Emergency Care 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, anywhere in the world if you require emergency care.
An emergency medical condition is a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that a prudent layperson (including the parent of a minor child or the guardian of a disabled individual), who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in:
- Placing the health of the individual (or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy
- Serious impairment to bodily function OR
- Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part
Some examples of emergencies are:
- Chest pain, suspected heart attack
- Severe shortness of breath
- Uncontrolled or severe bleeding
- Suspected overdose of medication
- Severe burns
- High fever (especially in infants)
- Loss of Consciousness
- Diabetic complications such an Insulin Shock or Ketoacidosis
- Gun shot or stab wounds
- Severe & persistent abdominal pain
If you think you or your loved one needs emergency care:
- Call your physician first, if possible. However, if a delay would be detrimental to your health, dial 911 for your local emergency response service. If you are responding to an emergency on behalf of another person, DO NOT DRIVE THE PERSON WITH A POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING CONDITION TO THE HOSPITAL IN YOUR CAR!
- If possible, print up your PatientAction.com online Healthy History and bring it with you.
- Bring all medication containers of drugs currently being taken, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, supplemetns and vitamins.
- If you have health insurance, bring your ID card with you.
- Bring your Advance Directives with you.
- If you do not have a current Health History with you, the emergency facility may contact your personal physician after assessing and stabilizing your condition, so s/he can assist the treating physician by supplying your health information. This information is critical for your receipt of the most appropriate and individualized care possible.
- If you are admitted to the hospital, the hospital will notify your personal physician as soon as reasonably possible. The emergency room co-pay is usually waived if you are admitted to the hospital.
- Keep in mind that if you do not have health insurance, the emergency room of a private hospital can turn you away to go to the nearest public hospital. The only exceptions to this are if you are a mother in labor or if the situation is life-threatening.
Check with your insurance company regarding your eligible emergency room coverage. Most plans will not cover treatment provided for non-emergency situations.