Feds Propose New Visitation Rules
Special Report - June 25, 2010
In response to a presidential directive issued earlier this year, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed new rules to expand patient visitation rights at most of the nation’s hospitals beyond immediate family membersincluding to gay, lesbian, and transgender partners. CMS announced the new rules, which apply to all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare and allow “patients to designate their own visitors, including domestic partners,” on June 23. As we previously reported, President Obama issued a White House memorandum in April, directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to “initiate” rulemaking procedures so that “participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”
According to DHHS, the proposed CMS rules update the minimum health and safety standards required to be met by all hospitals, including critical access hospitals, participating in Medicare and Medicaid. More specifically, the proposed rules “would require every hospital to have written policies and procedures detailing patients’ visitation rights, as well as instances when the hospital may restrict patient access to visitors based on reasonable clinical needs.” The proposed rules also specify that, “visitors chosen by the patient (or his or her representative) must be able to enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those for immediate family members.”
In a statement, DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Today’s proposed rules would ensure that all patients have equal access to the visitors of their choosingwhether or not those visitors are, or are perceived to be, members of a patient’s family.” On June 22, Secretary Sebelius mailed a letter to the directors of the nation’s top hospital associations, urging them “to encourage their member hospitals to not wait for the formal rulemaking process to run its course before they review their current visitation policies to ensure they comport with the patient-centered visitation rights that the President has suggested.”
The proposed rules are currently open to public comment for a 60-day period.
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