March 16, 2020

Key Advocacy Points: Liability Protections During COVID-19 Pandemic

In ACEP's recent letter to HHS Secretary Azar outlining key policy priorities, one of our points of emphasis was liability protections for front line health care workers. ACEP's Director of Regulatory Affairs Jeff Davis summarized ACEP's main points regarding liability protections:

Appropriate Liability Protections for Front-line Health Care Workers

As emergency physicians, we have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to treat every patient who comes to the ED regardless of their ability to pay—and we strongly support the patient protections embedded in EMTALA.

However, during this crisis, we request that HHS make some necessary modifications to EMTALA to protect front-line workers while still ensuring that every patient is appropriately treated.

We request that the HHS Secretary uses his authority to waive certain elements of EMTALA to allow for more flexibility in meeting the current medical screening exam and stabilization requirements.

A pandemic or other disaster will strain medical resources and thereby may require a shift in care that was previously focused on the individual patient to that which is focused on doing the most good for the greatest number. Rather than doing everything possible to try to save every life; in a disaster, it will be necessary to allocate scarce resources to save as many lives as possible. The Administration must review and consider various such scenarios where health care professionals should be held free from liability during this crisis.

The Administration recently provided liability immunity to manufacturers, distributors, certain healthcare providers, and other entities in relation to covered countermeasures, except in cases of willful misconduct; extending similar immunity temporarily to emergency physicians and other frontline personnel will ensure greater flexibility and capacity to treat more patients.


Your ACEP advocacy team will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf, and we will keep you updated as the COVID-19 situation evolves. See additional COVID-19 federal and regulatory announcements

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