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The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. Passed in 1986 as a part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), EMTALA applies to virtually every hospital in the U.S. and covers every person in the country. Because the federal government does not reimburse hospitals for emergency treatment under EMTALA, the act has been criticized for having the unintended consequence of driving up uncompensated care costs, as many emergency patients cannot pay their full bill out of pocket.
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