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EMTALA: In the Spotlight
Monday, June 3, 2024

Almost 40 years after its passing, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) remains not only a key consideration for hospitals with emergency departments, but also a significant federal enforcement priority. EMTALA requires hospitals with emergency departments that participate in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) programs to provide medical screening, stabilizing treatment and transfer for patients with emergency medical conditions (EMCs) and women in labor.

Within the first five months of 2024, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has brought six EMTALA-related enforcement actions, a number equal to the total number of enforcement actions in 2023 and twice the number of enforcement actions in 2021.[1] Other recent notable EMTALA-related developments include:

  • A reporting website was developed by the Biden-Harris Administration, which allows individuals to more easily file an EMTALA complaint,[2]
  • Oral arguments were heard at the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Idaho, a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued the state of Idaho and argued the state’s abortion law conflicts with EMTALA,[3]
  • New actions and informational resources were announced by CMS to help individuals understand their rights under EMTALA and to assist hospitals with meeting EMTALA obligations, [4] and
  • CMS published a guidance document as a reminder of EMTALA requirements for hospitals.[5]

FOOTNOTES

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Enforcement Actions (https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/enforcement/).

[2] See Biden-Harris Administration Launches New Option to Report Potential Violations of Federal Law and Continue to Promote Patient Access to Stabilizing Emergency Care | CMS.

[3] See supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/23-726U.S. v. Idaho, No. 1:22-cv-00329-BLW.

[4] See CMS Announces New Actions to Help Hospitals Meet Obligations under EMTALA | CMS.

[5] CMS, “Reminder of Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) Requirements and Guidance for Hospitals in a Disaster” (Dec. 8, 2023).

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Megan Miller contributed to this article.

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