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How To Obtain Acute Care


If you need immediate medical care, you can receive it at an emergency room or clinic even if you don't have any money at all. Regardless of a person's insurance status or ability to pay, emergency rooms and clinics are required to provide:

  • An initial screening to assess a patient's condition.
  • Treatment until the patient is stabilized.

Be aware that even though the care has to be provided, you can be billed for it after you receive the necessary care.  Under federal law, you cannot be required to pay for emergency service in advance.  (For information about emergency rooms, including how to maximize time in an emergency room, click here.)

Keep in mind that if you are billed, you can negotiate the bill with the care provider.  For information, see:

If it turns out your need for acute care requires hospitalization, your length of stay in the hospital will be based on your need for inpatient acute care hospital services. A physician will determine the need. The doctor documents a patient's ongoing needs in the medical chart. A review agency monitors the medical charts to make sure individuals only remain in the hospital if there is a medical need. If the review agency determines that the patient is medically able to leave the acute care hospital, and the physician and/or family disagree with this decision, an appeal offsite link can be initiated.

Once you are stabilized, there is no further obligation to assist you. However, if you need continuing care, most hospitals will transfer you to a hospital where free care is available.

NOTE: An alternative for acute care is an urgent-care clinic. Urgent-care clinics are staffed by doctors, offer short wait times and charges which are a fraction of what a typical emergency department charges. Some even offer discounts and payment plans for people who are uninsured. Co-pays may even be less for people who have health insurance.

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