IIRC, any (?) emergency room has to see you regardless of insurance, but that’s not necessarily the case if you require admission. (I don’t handle billing. If there’s a big question about this, I can ask a friend in billing in my department what she knows about it.) A lot of underinsured/uninsured people go to County because they have to take care of you, though they will send you a bill later. What I’d heard at my previous job, though, was that they weren’t as aggressive as other hospitals in collecting/sending patients to collections/whatever. Just hearsay, though.
I didn’t have time to finish my story this morning - my brother-in-law went to County’s ER earlier in the year; he had no health insurance either. I told the whole story in episodes in my LJ; let me try to condense it here. He was admitted to the ER for coughing/spitting up blood. I don’t know how long it was before he was seen, but there wasn’t a complaint about that from my SIL so I’m assuming it was reasonable. They admitted him with alcoholic hepatitis (basically liver failure due to alcohol abuse), and at the time said that his family had better be notified, to the extent of calling his parents which he was mostly estranged from, because there were concerns he wouldn’t last more than a day. He did last longer than that, and my SIL spent a lot of time there with him. She complained of how it seemed like the resident who was handling a lot of the care was almost contemptuous of her patient - yeah, OK, so he blew out his liver from drinking, but he held down a job, wasn’t abusive or neglectful, and was a kind, caring, very decent human being who regardless of why still needs medical care. She got different prognoses between the people involved with his care (or sometimes from the same person, without any explanation about why the change), and was concerned that they didn’t seem to be doing much for him. She worked at yet another hospital in Chicago (not County, not mine), and called a doctor in her department who had privileges at County. He came over to see my BIL, and according to her, his care suddenly changed quite a bit.
I went over to visit a number of times as well. I will say that the nurses were kind and helpful, but the resident in charge of his care needs a mess of lessons in bedside manner. I’ve met a lot of residents and med students in my years of working in the medical field, and she was probably the most unfriendly one I’ve ever met.
(Postscript: While in the hospital, he also caught pneumonia, his kidneys started failing, and he had a stroke, but his liver started working finally. After a post-op stay at a county-funded rehabilitation center, he’s out, improving as the weeks go by, glad to be alive, and has stopped drinking. Medicaid - er, whichever one isn’t solely for senior citizens - has covered his expenses.)