In grave urgent situations such as cerebral attack, cardiac arrest and so on a patient has a right to medical treatment irrespective of his ability to pay. Public as well as private hospitals have obligation to provide medical care to a person in emergency.
A hospital cannot refuse to treat a person with HIV or AIDS or cannot decline medical attention to a prospective patient on the ground of race, religion, color or national origin.
The congress passed in 1986 the Emergency Medial Treatment and Active Labor Act. The objective of the statute is to prevent hospitals from refusing patients in emergency situations due to their inability to pay or from dumping patients into charity hospitals or other facilities. The provisions of the said Act bind any hospital that receives federal funds, including medicare. In fact virtually all hospitals in the US enjoy the benefits of federal funding. By virtue of the above law, any hospital must stabilize the condition of an emergency patient first before shifting him elsewhere to any other facility without harm or before discharging him. The law also sets out strict conditions for transfer of a patient whose condition cannot be stabilized. Any hospital violating the said mandatory provisions would be liable to suspension or termination from Medicare. In addition, the guilty doctor or the hospital would be liable to a fine up to 50.000$ for each case of breach or non-compliance.
In non-emergency situations a patient does not enjoy any such automatic right to admission or treatment. However, the law considerably discourages admission solely on the basis of the ability to pay even in non-emergency situations.
Most hospitals have received financial aid from the federal government for construction. Those hospitals are obliged to provide medical facilities to persons unable to pay for a period of twenty years from the completion of construction. The nature and volume of services to be provided is set by the appropriate regulation.
Many state laws require hospitals not to deny admissions only due to inability to pay. Hospitals are also debarred from taking any deposit from ‘Medicare’ or ‘Medicaid’ patients.
An admitted patient has a right to leave the hospital even against medical advice at his own risk. The hospital authorities are not entitled to detain such patient even when his bills are unpaid. However, in appropriate cases patients with unsound mind or communicable diseases may not be allowed to leave.
A patient cannot be discharged due to non-payment of his bills. It must be decided solely on the medical condition of the patient instead of extraneous factors. However, when a patient is dissatisfied or aggrieved with the decision to discharge him, he can demand confirmation of the same by another doctor before release.
In September 1996 the congress passed a law stipulating minimum 96 hours of hospitalization of any woman who gives birth in a caesarian operation and minimum 96 hours of hospitalization of any woman birth without such operation.