Getting Emergency Medical Care


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 hawk-i 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 Human Services office. Call 1-800-972-2017 to find the office near you.

For more information about these programs, go to the Iowa Legal Aid Website.*

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.

For more information about the rights of immigrants to get emergency health care go to the Iowa Legal Aid Website.*

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 Human Services Office. For more information about the County General Assistance program go to the Iowa Legal Aid Website.*

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.

For more information about County Veterans Relief go to the Iowa Legal Aid Website.*

* Get more information on the Iowa Legal Aid Website
Go to and select the first blue box on the left for "Legal Information and Other Resources for Iowans." Then select the topic "Health" and go to any of the subtopics listed for more information and links to other helpful websites.


Last Review and Update: Jan 26, 2005

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