If you have ever found yourself in an emergency room, chances are, you were too hurt to worry about how you were going to pay for your emergency room visit. What you probably wanted instead was to be seen so that you could stop the pain you were feeling and return back to being a productive citizen. Unfortunately, for those without health insurance or the money to pay for their emergency visit, this time can be frustrating and overwhelming. Because of this, it is important to understand whether a hospital can refuse to see you and what to do if you have been refused emergency treatment. If you or a loved one have been denied emergency treatment in Washington state, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Spokane personal injury attorney so that we can help you strategize about the best possible outcomes for your case.
Can Your Emergency Treatment be Refused?
The short answer to this question is, it depends. According to The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) passed in 1986, public and private hospitals are prohibited from denying a patient treatment during an emergency just because he or she lacks the ability to pay. However, privately owned hospitals have the ability to turn away a patient so long as the patient is not in an emergency situation. Public hospitals cannot refuse care at any time. Under the EMTLA, there is also a prohibition of unnecessarily transferring patients while care is being administered or suspending care once care has been initiated in an emergency situation. It is important to note that under the EMTLA, a hospital still has the ability to ask about a patient's ability to pay, but patient care cannot be delayed while the ability to pay is being investigated.
One main reason for this is because public hospitals are funded by tax payer dollars and are held to a different standard than privately owned hospitals. Though this is the case, if you are not experiencing an emergency and you do not have the ability to pay or health insurance, the truth is, the emergency room is not legally requires to treat you and may instead ask you to seek care from your own physician or community health clinic. Nonetheless, you are entitled to screening, emergency care, and appropriate transfers under the EMTLA, and if you have been denied emergency treatment, you have the right to speak with an attorney to determine whether you have a case.
Need Legal Advice?
No one wants to hear that they cannot be treated when they are injured because of the lack of health insurance and/or money to pay for medical treatment. In some cases, this denial of emergency treatment is illegal. If you or a loved one have been denied emergency treatment, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you with your case. Contact the West Law Office online or call at 509-993-0748 today.
(image courtesy of Daniel Frank)