Study says fewer US hospitals breaking ER rules

A study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine: An International Journal found the number of U.S. hospitals investigated or cited for breaking federal emergency treatment rules decreased by roughly 3 percent from 2005 to 2014.

For the study, researchers reviewed a comprehensive list of Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act investigations conducted between 2005 and 2014 from CMS.

Congress passed EMTALA in 1986 in response to public outcry over the treatment of uninsured patients. By law, all patients admitted to hospital emergency rooms must receive treatment to stabilize their condition regardless of their ability to pay.

According to the study, 7.2 percent of national hospitals were investigated for violating the law in 2014, down from 10.8 percent in 2005.

During the period reviewed, 2,118 of the 4,772 investigations resulted in citations for EMTALA deficiencies. On average, 9 percent of hospitals were investigated and 4.3 percent of hospitals received citations for EMTALA violations. The proportion of hospitals subjected to investigation decreased from 10.8 percent to 7.2 percent. The number of hospitals that received citations also decreased from 5.3 percent to 3.2 percent.

The study did not address whether the decrease in citations resulted from improved compliance with the statuette or from improvements in the quality of emergency care.

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