Most emergency rooms have physicians that know how to triage patients. For that reason, it often makes sense to visit one for any life-threatening condition. You even may choose to go to the ER for ailments that are less serious.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 130 million Americans go to ERs every single year. Many of these, of course, have neither health insurance nor enough savings to pay for emergency medical treatment.
A duty to provide emergency care
Federal law requires all emergency rooms that receive federal funding to provide medical treatment during an emergency. Therefore, regardless of whether you can pay, you can expect to receive care for any of the following:
- An injury or illness that is severe or life-threatening
- An injury or illness that seriously impairs bodily functions or major organs
- Childbirth that is imminent
A duty to stabilize
Even though all federally subsidized ERs must provide you with emergency care, they do not have to continue to treat you through the duration of your illness or injury. If hospital administrators or ER physicians want to transfer you to a different facility, however, they must stabilize you first. This means your transfer must not cause your condition to deteriorate.
Your responsibility to pay
Your right to receive emergency medical care does not mean your care is free. Depending on the treatments you need, you may receive extensive medical bills. If you cannot pay these bills, the hospital may refer them to a collections agency. Your credit score also may plummet.
Ultimately, if you have unpayable bills from emergency medical care, it may be advisable to explore all your debt-relief options, including seeking bankruptcy protection.