News: CMS releases updated memo on EMTALA and emergency abortions

CDI Strategies - Volume 16, Issue 29

On July 11, CMS released a memo updating and expanding on guidance from last September under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which outlined hospital obligations to an individual’s rights. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade two weeks prior, CMS reminds hospitals in the updated memo of their obligations under federal law to help pregnant women in medical emergencies. Specific emphasis was placed that a physician’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment “preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate,” CMS stated.

The original memo in September was issued after many states passed more restrictive laws on abortion, but it never explicitly mentioned abortion, Credentialing Resource Center Digest reported. In this new memo, CMS restated existing guidance “in light of new state laws prohibiting or restricting access to abortion.” It also added the clarification that “when a direct conflict occurs between EMTALA and a state law, EMTALA must be followed.”

CMS added the new statement with bold emphasis: “If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting at an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment. When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person—or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition—that state law is preempted.”

The update memo further clarifies what may constitute an emergency medical condition (e.g., ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, and emergent hypertensive disorder), what is defined as stabilizing treatment, and how CMS will enforce EMTALA regulations.

Editor’s note: To read Credentialing Resource Center Digest’s report on this story, click here. To read CMS’ memo, click here.

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