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Capitol Health Call
October 8, 2003

Emergency Medical Treatment

JAMA. 2003;290(14):1844. doi:10.1001/jama.290.14.1844-a

The Bush administration has issued rule changes affecting the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). While the US Department of Health and Human Services released a statement saying that the rules are simply meant to clarify the law, patients rights advocates worry that the rules will lead to hospitals turning away indigent patients .

EMTALA requires any hospital taking part in Medicare to provide "appropriate medical screening" to anyone who appears at an emergency department and asks for it. On threat of a $50 000 fine and suspension from Medicare, the hospitals also must stabilize the patient or transfer the patient to a clinic or hospital that can do so.