CMS to Continue Current Policy Not to Extend EMTALA to Inpatients

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says it will continue its current policy that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) does not extend to inpatients or to the transfer of inpatients to hospitals with specialized capabilities. The announcement was published in a Request for Comment (Federal Register) on Thursday. CMS says it will continue to monitor whether it may be appropriate in the future to reconsider whether to extend EMTALA to inpatients. The American Medical Association (AMA) plans to comment in support of CMS’ decision not to extend EMTALA.

When CMS published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on EMTALA [CMS-1350-ANPRM] on December 23, 2010, it indicated it was reconsidering the current policy which provides that:

  1. a hospital’s EMTALA obligation ends upon the admission of a patient as an inpatient; and
  2. EMTALA does not apply to the transfer of inpatient to a hospital with specialized capabilities.

The AMA submitted comments that strongly objected to the extension. The organization said that physicians are already bound by a host of legal and ethical obligations to provide necessary patient care, and take those obligations seriously. The AMA also asserted that EMTALA obligations often result in over-utilization of physician resources, uncompensated care, and administrative hurdles.

Physicians may submit comments electronically to, or by regular mail to:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Department of Health and Human Services

Attention: CMS—1350—NC

P.O. Box 8013

Baltimore, MD 21244-8013

Comments must be received no later than 5:00 pm Eastern Time on April 2, 2012.


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