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Emergency Room Laws: You Have Rights

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 17, 2011 5:44 AM

There are times when you or a loved one will need emergency medical treatment. This means that most Americans will need to know some basics about emergency room laws and your rights.

The first thing you should know is that under federal law, most hospitals cannot deny you treatment even if you can't pay.

This law covers most medical facilities because it extends to all hospitals that participate in Medicare. This includes a vast majority of healthcare facilities. But just because they cannot deny you care does not mean you are freely given all services.

Applicable hospitals need to adhere to these general guidelines:

  • Hospitals must provide screening examinations to determine if a medical emergency exists. Emergency medical situations may arise out of acute and severe symptoms, including pain, according to MSN Money.
  • Hospitals must provide stabilizing treatment to anybody who has a medical emergency. This includes treatment to a women in active labor. Hospitals must provide this treatment prior to transferring the patient.
  • If the hospital cannot stabilize the patient, they may be transferred to a hospital if the physician certifies in writing that benefits of transferring outweigh the risks.
  • Hospitals may not deny patients treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. AIDS patients may not be denied available treatments as well.

Also, don't expect to be treated straight away unless you're experiencing serious injuries or illnesses. Expect a wait. In 2007, the average waiting time for an emergency patient was 4 hours and 5 minutes.

State emergency room laws may vary. They may provide you with additional rights when it comes to your emergency medical treatment. The federal law simply provides a baseline.

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