Years ago laws were changed requiring treatment of those who come in thru the Emergency Room (ER). There are however some specific exemptions. Generally when you arrive at the ER the facility needs to provide an assessment to determine if your care needs are emergent or not. If not, they can send you to a less intensive care setting
EMTALA is thought by many to be their free ticket to any care they want in the ER. Sadly for those folks they find out after spending some time in the ER that their care needs are determined to be no more than primary care needs. In these situations they are referred to other clinics where care can be obtained, often for free or at a minimal cost. What that means is the folks who expected ER care to get their ailment cured end up spending a lot more time chasing down care.
There are good reasons for these screenings and redirection of care. Those who have nothing more than a cold etc…, clog the ER system delaying care for those who need more urgent and emergent care. That can lead to more problems for those who had care delayed. Also, these situations tend to raise the cost of care for those paying since so much uncompensated care ends up rendered in the ER. The doctors working in the ER especially in states where they bill and get paid for their care directly from the insurance or patient (as opposed to thru the hospital) also feel the pinch and require far greater compensation from those paying.
Although it sounds like a great thing to go to the ER and get whatever care you need, in reality it does not work that way, it delays care for others in need or the emergent care, and it tends to increase the cost of care in the ER for everyone. Thus, for these reasons in fact No, the hospital does not have to treat everyone with any ailment in the ER.
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