Jack Vihstadt


During the Reagan Administration, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) to crack down on hospital emergency departments (EDs) that were refusing to treat poor patients. The Act prohibited EDs from screening patients based on their ability to pay. Thirty years later, EDs have used provisions of the Act to dodge questions from curious patients about their treatment options and costs. In 2016, two Democrats introduced a bill into the Colorado General Assembly that would provide a warning to emergency department patients without an emergency condition that an urgent care center or a primary care physician may be better options for continuing treatment. A panel of Republicans blocked the bill with the support of the health care industry, which claimed, erroneously, that it violated EMTALA. Yet price transparency and health care industry accountability are not partisan issues: in March 2017, Republican Members of the U.S. Congress introduced bills amending EMTALA that recognize these very points. This acknowledgement, plus the critical need to provide greater consumer transparency, provides a new impetus to introduce and pass this Comment's proposed Pre-Screen Notice in the Colorado General Assembly. In contrast to the blocked bill's simple warning, the Pre-Screen Notice encourages a substantive relationship between physician and patient.