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Your Right to Hospital Care


New Jersey has important state laws that protect hospital patients. The NJ Department of Health and Senior Services is the state agency that licenses hospitals and is responsible for seeing that the laws are enforced. The following briefly describes two of the laws (with legal citations for reference). More information about the state’s licensing requirements for health care facilities and contact information for consumers to report complaints can be found on the Department’s Division of Health Facilities Evaluation and Licensing Web page. Consumers may also contact the Department using their 24-hour Complaint Hotline at 1-800-792-9770.

Can a hospital refuse to treat me because I cannot afford to pay them?

NO. New Jersey law states, “No hospital shall deny any admission or appropriate service to a patient on the basis of that patient’s ability to pay or source of payment.” Hospitals that violate this section of the law are subject to a civil penalty of $10,000 for each violation. (N.J.S.A. 26:2H-18.64; N.J.A.C. 8:43G-5.2[c].)

But please note that the statute prohibits hospitals from turning patients away based on their ability to pay. The hospital does have the right to refuse to admit or treat someone who they evaluate and determine does not need hospital care. (See next question.)

Can a hospital emergency department refuse to see me?

If a patient comes to a hospital emergency department and asks to be examined or treated for a medical condition, or the request is made on the patient’s behalf, “the hospital shall provide for an appropriate medical screening examination performed by qualified medical personnel.”

If the medical personnel determine that an emergency medical condition exists, the patient must be evaluated by a physician and provided with appropriate medical treatment (unless the patient refuses the treatment). (N.J.S.A. 26H-12.7[c][d].)

If you think you have been refused health care illegally, you may also contact your nearest Legal Services office or call LSNJ-LAW™, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) to see if you are eligible for free legal assistance. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you are not eligible for assistance from Legal Services, the hotline will refer you to other possible resources.

This information last reviewed 10/26/11


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Low-income New Jerseyans can get free legal help by phone: call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of New Jersey, please call 732-572-9100 and ask to be transferred to the hotline.