Emergency room care for uninsured person

I’m going to be losing my health insurance at the end of the month.  I’ve always been in pretty good health, and haven’t seen a doctor in years. But I’m worried about what will happen if I have an emergency.  Is there an ER that accepts someone with no health insurance?

Okay for Now, but . . . .

Dear Okay For Now,

All emergency rooms are required by federal law to accept all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. The ER has to evaluate your condition and stabilize it. If you need more emergency care than the hospital can provide, the ER has to transfer you to a hospital that can provide it. So, for example, if you had a heart attack at a community hospital, they would transfer you for emergency surgery.

The ER won’t transfer you for and does not provide non-emergency care. You could not go to the ER and get an annual physical, for example. Uninsured people who need routine care can find free or sliding-scale clinics in many communities. For a great guide to free and low-cost care in Maine, try the Consumers For Affordable Health Care’s “Health Care Guide”.

Though the ER will accept you without insurance, they will bill you.  It’s an expensive place to go, so avoid it unless you are having a real emergency.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.