Nearly 50.7 million Americans do not have healthcare insurance, and a new study shows they are at risk of being turned away by emergency departments (ED). The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was implemented in 1986 and requires EDs to provide medical screening and stabilizing care to uninsured patients who present with emergency conditions. However, a study published in Health Affairs presents five case studies that demonstrate how patients were transferred to a Denver safety-net hospital without receiving care required under the law. According to the study’s authors, the patient dumping problem is not exclusive to Denver, and likely occurs across the country. The problem is that the current system of enforcement relies on patients and hospitals to blow the whistle, and many EMTALA violations go unreported. The authors contend that if the responsibility to report violations were shifted to a government agency, there would be fewer patient dumping instances. In an interview with Medical News Today, Sara Rosenbaum, the study’s lead investigator and the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C., said “Federal and state investigators must do a better job of identifying violators of the law and enforcing the ban on patient dumping. If we do not start aggressively enforcing the law, millions of uninsured Americans will continue to get no care at all or incomplete care.”
About Ben Amirault
Ben Amirault was formerly the marketing manager at Barton Associates' Peabody, MA headquarters. He received a B.A. in English, specializing in journalism, from the University of New Hampshire.