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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How much does EMTALA cost the US citizen? The price of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.

The EMTALA legislation means that by law a US ER department cannot refuse treatment. This means that the uninsured or those with insufficient assets to pay the bill are being treated. So who ends up paying the bill and how much is it?

Surprisingly considering the amount of attention that the US health reforms currently receive it is very difficult to find a US Government statistic to this question. However what we can do is make an assumption that the cost of EMTALA is, if not equal to then certainly proportional to, the total amount of unpaid US health care bills. It is a fair assumption because if EMTALA did not exist then ER departments could refuse to treat those who could not prove they could pay for treatment. The estimated figure for unpaid health bills in 2008 stands at $43 billion and was published by a report by Families USA. http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/hidden-health-tax.pdf

Although this report was commissioned by Families USA the research was carried out by the actuaries Milliman and the process is well document in the report and sound.

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