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Can a Hospital Turn You Away If You Owe It Money?

If medical debt goes unpaid for a period of time, a hospital or other health care provider may decide to stop providing you services. In some areas, you may have few other options for medical care, but in other locations you should be able to find other health care providers to take care of your family. That you own money to one hospital or one health care provider should not prevent you from obtaining services from other hospitals or providers. This will particularly be the case with public hospitals and community health centers.

Even if you owe a hospital for past-due bills, the hospital cannot turn you away from its emergency room. This is your right under a federal statute called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).

If you request financial assistance from a nonprofit hospital, the hospital cannot deny you care in any part of the hospital because of an old bill until it determines whether you are eligible for financial assistance. You usually have about eight months (240 days) from when you first received the old bill to request such financial assistance.

If you are a Medicaid recipient and you owe a doctor or other health care provider for co-payments or deductibles, Medicaid prohibits health care providers from denying you future services.