Celebrating EMTALA 25 years since enactment The healthcare system in the country and the emergency departments in particular has experienced both the good and bad of EMTALA many years after its implementation. EMTALA has proved beyond unreasonable doubt as being the most transformative kind of legislation in the world of healthcare since the enactment of Medicare. This is how this legislation has impacted the health care industry.

It has protected patients

Before this law came into effect, patients were rampantly abused especially those who were not as lucrative as such before EMTALA came by. Many patients were turned away from the hospitals at the doorstep, dumped wantonly on the nearby facilities that operated on the basis of ‘Good Samaritan’ if any and simply refused medical care at the facilities they visited. However, this legislation has changed all these by protecting the patients and giving them the option of choosing the institution where they wish to be cared at and are assured that no one can railroad them against their will. This is a pretty good thing as every patient is assured of getting the care they need anytime they visit a healthcare facility of their choice.

Creation of a de factor universal medical care

Although inefficient, incomplete and limited, EMTALA has led to the creation of a de facto universal medical care. Any person in the country regardless of their legal or economic status can confidently walk to an Emergency Room and receive the much needed emergency care if necessary. Not so great for non- emergent or chronic conditions and also not so great for post acute and preventative care as well. Under this law, ER doctors and other healthcare specialists are obligated to offer the needed care to patients.

Indirectly facilitated emergency care accessibility

EMTALA has also succeeded in eliminating the barriers imposed by insurers that limited accessibility to emergency care. Even though this wasn’t an immediate achievement, EMTALA has significantly wielded the requirements for one to be pre- authorized to access ER services and this has created a way for universal ‘Prudent Layperson’ standards in getting emergency care.

Hospital ERs forced to embrace their responsibility

This legislation has now forced Emergency Rooms in hospitals to embrace their roles as a social safety net and community service centers. Some hospitals eagerly accepted this while others were a little reluctant. However, EMTALA has succeeded in giving ER doctors more credibility and respect from the public as people who are always determined to do the right and most possible thing for their patients.

EMTALA also comes with a big unfunded managed and has forced most individual doctors to work without pay and hospitals have also been made to provide patients with charity care. As such, the law has been a burden to health institutions that are underfunded, poorly capitalized and poorly staffed. Finally, the law has also exposed ER to abuses for complaints that are non emergent.