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How Can I Get Emergency Care with No Insurance?

By Christina Edwards
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Medical care, particularly emergency medical care, can be rather expensive, especially if you do not have health insurance to help cover these costs. In the United States, the majority of emergency rooms are required by law to treat you if you are in need of emergency medical attention. After you are released, however, you will get a bill for the emergency care fees. Most hospitals will allow patients to set up payment arrangements, which allow them to pay a small amount of the bill a little at a time. If you are a low income individual, you may qualify for government or private grants to help offset the cost.

Healthcare costs are very high, and people with no insurance will often delay being treated, even in the event of an emergency. Many uninsured people are often afraid that they will not be able to pay the hospital fees, and some may even be afraid that they will be denied because they are unable to pay. In the United States, however, the government passed a law that guarantees you emergency care with no insurance.

In 1986, the United States government passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). Among other things, this law means doctors and nurses must treat you in an emergency medical situation, even if they believe that you are unable to pay. Failure to comply with this law can result in severe penalties for a hospital.

You must be experiencing a medical emergency to receive emergency care with no insurance. This includes traumatic injuries, severe infections, and labor. In these types of situations, an emergency care unit must treat you, and make sure that you are reasonably healthy enough to leave the hospital. If they are not equipped to handle your situation, you may be transferred to another facility.

After you receive emergency care with no insurance, you will then receive a bill, usually by mail. This bill will often be very expensive. If you are able to pay the full amount of the bill, you are encouraged to do so.

Unfortunately, most uninsured patients are not able to pay a large hospital bill right away. Instead of avoiding or ignoring the bill, patients are typically encouraged to contact the hospital's billing department. Representatives will usually be able to help you set up a payment plan. This would require you to make scheduled payments to the facility, which is often determined by how much you are able to pay each time.

Low-income emergency patients may also qualify for assistance in paying their bill. Government grants are available for this purpose, for instance. Some private organizations may also be able to help you pay a hospital bill, if you had to receive emergency care with no insurance. The billing department at the facility where you received the urgent care will usually be able to help you with this.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Laotionne — On Oct 30, 2014

I think it is great that we have a law that requires all hospitals to help people who need emergency care regardless of how much money they have to pay. However, I wonder whether the poor patients are going to get the same quality of care that a wealthy person will get.

There are so many tests that hospitals can run to see what is wrong with a patient, but they all cost money and they may not be conclusive. So when people have no insurance and can't pay their bills are they going to receive fewer tests? And does this mean that doctors are not doing everything possible to treat the poor patients?

By Drentel — On Oct 29, 2014

@Animandel - I understand you feeling sympathy for people who don't have health insurance, but in a large number of cases this is a conscious decision they have made, and they could have insurance if they would forgo the new car or budget their money better in general. A person has to prioritize because most of us don't have enough money to get everything that we want.

I am a small business owner, so I have to pay for my own insurance and the insurance of all of my employees. Take my word for it when I say that this is a lot of money going to cover insurance costs. I would much rather be spending that money somewhere else, but I don't.

By Animandel — On Oct 29, 2014

I feel sympathy for people who are working and trying to get ahead in life, but are still unable to get any health insurance or are unable to get enough health insurance. How tough must it be to have to try to decide whether the pain or other symptoms you are having are bad enough that you need to go to the hospital and be held responsible for a large bill, or can you tough it out and save the money?

This decision is hard enough for an adult to make for himself or herself. I know the decision has to be a million times more difficult when an adult has to make this decision for a child.

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