Is a hospital allowed to decline medical treatment to sick individuals needing medical care? What rights do patients have if they are injured as a result?

There is a term related to this very subject. It is known as patient dumping, and is illegal. Patient dumping occurs when a patient is denied treatment, or is transferred or deterred to a different care facility to receive medical care.

Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed an act to prevent patient dumping from occurring. This act is known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Because of this act, every individual, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, or ability to pay, has the right to receive emergency medical care from hospitals across the country.

How does this apply to patients in need of emergency medical care?
  • Any hospital that receives funding from the Department of Health and Human Services through Medicare or Medicaid—which is nearly every hospital in the country—must provide standard emergency medical care to those in need without delay.
  • Hospitals must treat patients until they are stabilized, the condition is resolved, or the patient is able to provide self-care upon discharge.
  • Any patient being discharged must give prior consent before they can leave.
  • To determine if a person’s condition is truly an emergency, hospitals must provide patients with a complete medical screening exam.
  • Medical providers cannot provide a substandard level of care simply because a patient cannot afford to pay.

If a hospital is found to be in violation of this act, it can receive extensive fines for every case, and could potentially be in violation of their provider agreement with Medicare. This is known as a Medicare Death Penalty. If this happens, the hospital would no longer qualify to receive reimbursement from the Department of HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

If patients are denied the emergency care they need within the appropriate amount of time, they can experience serious medical complications and injuries. This can result in mounting hospital bills, extended care needs, or even permanent disability.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of patient dumping in Maryland, we may be able to help you receive the financial compensation you deserve. Please call our offices today at 202-296-0666 to find out more information about your claim and your legal rights.

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