Feds propose new rules to expand hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners
Hospital visitation policies are about to get more inclusive, thanks to a rule change announced this week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Under the proposed rule, patients may decide who is allowed to visit them during their hospital stays. Furthermore, patients can elect to give these hand-selected visitors the same bedside access that is normally reserved for immediate family members.
The new rule is designed to give same-sex domestic partners the same visitation rights as spouses who are legally married. CMS drafted the rule in response to President Obama’s April 15 memorandum to the Department of Health and Human Services, titled “Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies.”
The proposed rule will apply to hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. The Department of Health and Human Services said it expects to publish the rule in the Federal Register very soon, and it will go into effect after a 60-day public comment period. (Until it appears in the Federal Register, it can be viewed online here.) However, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urged major hospital trade groups to voluntarily implement the rules right away – if they haven’t done so already.
“Your actions could spare many patients the pain of being separated from a loved one during an admission to a hospital – often one of the most anxious times in their lives,” Sebelius wrote.
-- Karen Kaplan
Photo: Same-sex domestic partners should have the same visitation rights as legal spouses, the Obama administration says. Credit: Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times