Patients’ Rights in the Emergency Department

These days it is nearly impossible to avoid information overload. It can be even harder to separate fact from fiction when it comes to your health. Emergency physicians are ready to help by tackling some of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of emergency medicine.

Going to the emergency department can daunting, especially for people who are not sure how their care will be covered by their insurance.

There is no reason to hesitate; if a medical emergency occurs, go to the closest emergency department or call 911.

Every patient is protected by laws that make sure emergency care is accessible in a crisis:

Access to emergency services is protected by EMTALA.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) says that every patient entering the emergency department has the right to be seen and evaluated if they have an emergency.

Additionally, EMTALA ensures that physicians cannot ask the patient for any proof of insurance or form of payment until after they are stabilized and treated.

Insurance companies are required to cover emergency care, regardless of the diagnosis, according to the Prudent Layperson Standard.

The Prudent Layperson Standard ensures that emergency care is covered based on a person’s symptoms rather than their final diagnosis.

It is unreasonable to expect a person without medical training to know in advance whether their chest pain is a heart attack or stomach pain is appendicitis, for example. The Prudent Layperson Standard exists so that anyone who reasonably believes they are having a medical emergency can go to the emergency department without delaying because of insurance-related concerns.  

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