EMTALA: Information for Hospitals in a Disaster Setting

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), enacted by Congress in 1986, guarantees public access to emergency services without regard to the ability to pay. Under Section 1867 of the Social Security Act, hospitals participating in Medicare and providing emergency services are mandated to conduct a medical screening examination (MSE) upon request for evaluation or treatment of an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, irrespective of the individual’s financial status.

These hospitals must offer stabilizing treatment for patients presenting with EMCs. In situations where a hospital cannot stabilize a patient within its capacity, or at the patient’s request, it is obligated to facilitate an appropriate transfer.

While the following resources provide EMTALA information in the context of hospitals and disasters, these resources are not intended to substitute for regulatory guidance or direct communication with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which monitors EMTALA compliance.