Under the terms of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Work Act (“EMTALA”), hospitals are not allowed to deny medical treatment to a patient in the event of an emergency, regardless of their insurance status. Refusal of treatment due to age, gender, religious affiliation, or other characteristics is strictly prohibited. In certain situations, a doctor may refuse to treat a patient, but they cannot deny immediate care. Both public and private hospitals are legally obligated to provide care in the event of an emergency.The EMTALA was passed by Congress in 1986 and explicitly prohibits denial of care to indigent or uninsured patients due to lack of ability to pay.
It also prevents unnecessary transfers while care is being administered and prohibits suspension of care once it starts, provisions that avoid leaving patients who cannot pay in other hospitals. Treating indigent and uninsured patients can place a huge financial burden on the health system, especially in areas where public hospitals are not available.If a hospital or medical provider disagrees with the decision to refuse medical treatment, the State of Florida can file a lawsuit to compel medical treatment. If a woman goes into labor and the nearest hospital is privately run, the EMTALA requires that the hospital admit her regardless of her ability to pay, since childbirth is considered an emergency situation.
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