Getting Emergency Medical Care

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


When must a hospital treat me?
Hospitals must treat you - even if you don't have insurance - when you have an emergency condition or are a woman in active labor. Hospitals must treat your medical emergency until you become stable. The hospital may bill you later, but it cannot turn you away from emergency care.

Does a doctor have to see me in an emergency?
Doctors outside of emergency rooms are not required by the law to see you in an emergency.

Are there programs that would pay for my visit to the doctor or hospital?
There are government programs like Medicaid (Title 19), Medicare or Hawki that may pay for your emergency care.

Medicaid may pay for bills that you've received up to three months before you filed the application. Many hospitals have social workers that can help you get a Medicaid application. You can apply for Medicaid at any Department of Health and Human Services office. Call 1-800-972-2017 to find the office near you.

I am a low-income immigrant. Are there any programs that can help me?
Yes. Hospitals are required to provide you treatment in an emergency, the same as citizens. Medicaid may also pay for up to three days of emergency services, including childbirth. Getting Medicaid does not hurt your chances to become a citizen.

Can I get help from the county?
Iowa counties must help people without much money through the General Assistance program. Each county has different rules. Most counties want you to ask for help from General Assistance before you get the medical care. You can find out more about what your county provides from General Assistance by contacting the General Assistance office, County Board of Supervisors, or your local Department of Health and Human Services Office.

What about help for Veterans?
Some veterans who were honorably discharged and their spouses may be eligible for veteran's assistance to help pay for medical bills. You can ask for help paying for medical care through your county Veteran's Relief office.



Last Review and Update: Jul 05, 2023
Back to top