The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a legislation that the American Congress enacted in 1986 under the provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985. This legislation was passed to prevent denial of emergency medical care to persons who visit a hospital or any other healthcare setting for this purpose, irrespective of whether the person is insured or not, or belongs to any culture, race, ethnic group or color.

The core aim of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act is to make physicians and other caregivers give a patient the much-needed emergency care when the situation warrants it, rather than seeking formalities such as insurance and being biased by the patient's qualities and affiliations.

Patient care comes first

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act seeks to make the patient stable first since it is an emergency for which she is being admitted, and then take the appropriate steps in the next phase. EMTALA puts a brake on the practice of transferring a patient who has come for an emergency treatment to a medical center to another facility without administering emergency care for reasons such as those mentioned above.

In a limited sense, it was the Pan-American health policy for those who were not insured. The minimum that a hospital that received such a patient was required to do was to provide a medical screening examination to determine the reason for which the patient had got admitted to the hospital.

Penalties under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act prescribes penalties for healthcare centers that infringe upon the provisions of this Act. Penalties and fines under can be any of these:

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Salient points in the EMTALA

  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act allows a hospital that receives a patient in an emergency condition from another hospital which refuses to admit that patient to sue that previous hospital for damages
  • However, a medical center cannot be penalized or fined under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act if the patient refuses to cooperate with it at the time of treatment or if there is an inadvertent adverse patient outcome
  • Violations of the provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act are enforced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Improvements into the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act underwent a revision in 2005, when the CMS convened an advisory group for this purpose. While retaining the core idea embedded into the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act; the advisory group suggested that the provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act be expanded, whereby communities would be encouraged to bring about innovations into the administration of emergency health.