While medical insurance helps people offset the cost of medical treatments, such as paying only a small fee whenever visiting a doctor's office or an emergency room, people without medical insurance often bear the brunt of fees for medical services that can span from a few hundred dollars to several hundred dollars. The emerg room, however, cannot turn away patients who do not have medical insurance. Emerg rooms caught trying to turn away or deny treatment to individuals who are suffering during an emergency can face heavy penalties and fines for their negligence. Knowing your rights to treatment ahead of time can help prevent a disaster, and even save your life, if you or a loved one find yourselves facing a medical emergency in the United States. If you do not have insurance and your job does not offer an insurance plan, it is possible to get an insurance plan that has a high deductible, such as a deductible of $5,000 to $10,000, for a monthly price of $100 or less. These plans are designed to keep patients from incurring medical debts that run into the hundreds of thousands after an accident. Rather than paying all fo the medical expense, the patient will pay the cost of the deductible and the insurance plan will pay the rest.
Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act protects those who go to an emerg room without medical insurance. The emerg room will screen you and after deciding if you are facing a true emergency, they must provide services to stabilize the patient. Active labor is also considered an emergency, and the hospital must deliver the baby. Patients can choose to refuse screening, treatment or transfer to another facility, and the hospital will keep record of this refusal. Typically, the emerg room will try to get written consent to refuse treatment, transfer or screening. An emerg room cannot transfer a patient to another hospital because the patient does not have medical insurance. A hospital does have a right to transfer the patient to another facility if that facility will be able to further stabilize the patient. While a hospital can ask about your ability to pay, the hospital cannot withhold treatment for an emergency while trying to find out your ability to pay.
Protecting your Rights
If you have been turned away from a hospital or delayed treatment because of an inability to pay or a lack of medical insurance, you can contact a lawyer to find out about your rights and any compensation owed to you for the hospital's negligence. If it is determined that you are not suffering from an emergency, an emerg room is not obligated to provide you with any treatment. If you refuse treatment, a hospital is also not obligated to provide any further assistance.
Tips and comments
Do not go to an emerg room unless you are actually suffering from an emergency. People may sometimes go to an emergency room for non-emergency related treatment in the hopes that the emerg room will be able to provide medications and other items for little to no cost. You will likely be turned away, and you are using up the time and resources of a staff that needs to attend to those truly suffering from an emergency.