The first major changes to Medicare's "patient antidumping" regulations in a decade became effective today. Although the changes -- in the works since May 2002 -- are meant to reduce some of the burden of the 1986 law, providers and healthcare attorneys said they may introduce new ambiguities. The law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, often known as EMTALA, requires hospital emergency rooms participating in Medicare to appropriately screen, stabilize or transfer patients. The most controversial change to EMTALA affects requirements for on-call staffing, said healthcare lawyer Lowell Brown, of Foley & Lardner, Los Angeles. Under the new regulations, physicians may perform elective surgery while on call and may be on call for more than one hospital simultaneously. "I think that this will leave many questions and increase the already growing tension with physicians, who are reluctant to take on-call duties without being paid," Brown said. "Hospitals are being granted more flexibility, but nobody's quite sure yet what that means." -- by Mark Taylor
Medicare's updated antidumping law takes effect
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