Inability to pay may be a concern for an individual seeking urgent medical attention in a Florida facility, but the nation’s Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act was passed in 1986 to address this concern so that people would not need to fear being turned away. At the time, there were numerous reports of situations involving people with serious conditions being turned away due to a lack of insurance or finances. Because of the legislation, hospitals with emergency rooms and participating in Medicare must take certain actions when a person seeks treatment.
An institution that falls under EMTALA regulations must provide a medical screening examination to verify whether the situation constitutes an emergency medical condition. Such conditions are those that could be expected to result in serious harm if not treated immediately. If an emergency medical condition is not diagnosed, the institution is not obligated to treat a patient. However, if such a condition is diagnosed, a hospital is expected to treat that patient or stabilize them prior to making a transfer or discharge.
In cases involving hospital violations of EMTALA, it may be necessary to establish that an individual has been treated differently from others, in which case a hospital may be liable under the act. This is different from a medical malpractice suit because it involves proving that the hospital’s actions were motivated by a patient’s inability to pay or by other factors. However, several courts no longer implement the bad motives requirement. A hospital that correctly follows EMTALA guidelines but makes an error in diagnosis may be responsible for malpractice damages.
Because each case is unique, it may be important to discuss concerns over emergency treatment and outcomes with a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced lawyer may be able to distinguish whether an EMTALA violation has occurred and whether litigation is appropriate.
Source: Findlaw , “Hospital Liability & The Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act in Florida “, August 19, 2014