The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week announced a proposed rule change intended to make hospital visitation much easier for LGBTQ patients and their partners. The rule “would protect patients’ rights to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including visitors who are same-sex domestic partners.”
The proposed rule change follows up on an April 15 presidential memorandum requesting, in part, that critical access hospitals and hospitals participating in Medicaid or Medicare allow patients to designate visitors who would receive the same access as “immediate family members.” These participating hospitals “may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”
As the memorandum explains:
[E]very day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides — whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.
Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), called the rule “an important step forward in the rights of all Americans to expect equal rights and privileges from the health care system, regardless of their personal and familial situations.”
The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 60 days, after which CMS will review the comments before finalizing the rule. It does not seem to be posted for comment yet at Regulations.gov, but we’ll update this post with the link when it is.