Your Emergency Room Rights
As Seen on NewsChannel 5 KGWN
by Stacy Johnson

Americans enjoy some of the best health care available on the planet. But it won't do you any good if a hospital can refuse to treat you if you happen to show up without your checkbook or insurance card. Can they? Money Talks reporter Stacy Johnson has the answer.

Sooner or later, odds are good that you, or someone you love, will ultimately end up at an emergency room.

Perhaps you've heard horror stories about hospitals refusing to treat emergency patients because they lacked insurance or money to pay for the help. Urban legend, or does this actually happen?

Well, here's the deal: Federal law requires all hospitals that participate in Medicare, which is most of them, provide screening, emergency care and appropriate transfers to anyone who shows up, without first inquiring about their ability to pay.

So you know that you're probably not going to be turned away in a true emergency, whether or not you have money or insurance. Of course, that doesn't mean you're getting free treatment, you're still responsible for the bill.

Here's a common question: Most managed care plans, like HMOs, require you to get authorization before you go to the ER. If you don't, do they have to pay anyway? The answer differs by state and company, but most states do have laws that require insurers to pay in an emergency, even without pre-authorization. The best way to find out your personal situation is to call the state department of insurance, or your insurer, before the situation arises.

If you do pause for authorization, federal law requires the hospital to treat you while you're waiting. Therefore, keeping a healthy knowledge of your rights, can keep you, and your checkbook, in the pink.

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