Originally Posted by zeg
Note: I've not personally looked into the other claim made in another post that non-emergency care is not guaranteed. I'm assuming it is.
I'm kind of surprised that someone who sounds so reasonable and informed doesn't know that it's just a Fox News talking point, but here you go:
"If you're not experiencing an emergency, and you don't have medical insurance or the ability to pay, the hospital emergency room is not legally required to treat you. The hospital will most likely direct you to your own doctor or a community health clinic."
And here are a couple of articles about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which is the federal regulation that requires emergency rooms to treat patients with health emergencies. Note that this has been the basic law since 1986
(signed into law by Ronald Reagan), so it's not like it's breaking news. And note that it was passed to correct the problem of people who actually did have serious medical emergencies being turned away to die, so there is really no reason for anyone to have ever believed that deadbeats got free routine medical care, other than hysterical right-wing propaganda.
By the way, in case Meenman, who just called me a commie in another thread, is getting anxious, the "Active Labor" in the law's title has nothing to do with workers uniting to overthrow the government; it's about a woman having a baby.
Basically the law applies to hospitals that take money from Medicare, which is pretty much all but the ritziest private clinics (or exceptions like the VA or Shriners hospitals), and it says that anyone who walks (or crawls) into an emergency room must be seen --- but only for screening. If their initial screening determines that you do not have a legitimate medical emergency, or you are not in active labor and about to dump a baby on the floor, the hospital has no further obligation to treat you. Only people with serious medical emergencies are required to be given any more treatment.
In other words, if you don't have money or medical insurance, and you go to an emergency room for a non-emergency reason, you are likely to sit there between a couple of people hacking and coughing for however long it takes for them to deal with the more obvious emergencies, and when they do get around to you, you can be told to go somewhere else as soon as they determine that you probably won't pay them.
And also note that if they do treat you, it's not for free. Whether you have the money or not, whether you have insurance or not, they will bill you, and the cost will be much, much higher than for someone with insurance, or even someone who pays cash at a regular (non-emergency) doctor's office. People who don't pay their bill will suffer the same consequences to their credit rating or whatever as anyone would, and will have to pay the inflated bill, plus interest, before the hospital will ever treat them for a non-emergency. There are all kinds of horror stories of hospitals turning bills over to collection agencies that make the lives of people, who may have been laid off and simply can't pay, a living hell.Edited by brocks - 5/18/12 at 10:31pm