In late June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposed new rules for hospitals that would entitle patients to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including visitors who are same-sex domestic partners. These proposed rules stem from the April 15, 2010 Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation issued to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
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. A key provision of the proposed rules specifies 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:
(h) Standard: Patient visitation rights. A hospital must have written policies and procedures regarding the visitation rights of patients, including those setting forth any clinically necessary or reasonable restriction or limitation that the hospital may need to place on such rights and the reasons for the clinical restriction or limitation. A hospital must–
(1) Inform each patient (or representative, where appropriate) of his or her visitation rights, including any clinical restriction or limitation on such rights, when he or she is informed of his or her other rights under this section.
(2) Inform each patient (or representative, where appropriate) of the right, subject to his or her consent, to receive the visitors whom he or she designates, including, but not limited to, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), another family member, or a friend, and his or her right to withdraw or deny such consent at any time.
(3) Not restrict, limit, or otherwise deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
(4) Ensure that all visitors designated by the patient (or representative, where appropriate) enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members would enjoy.
Comments on these proposed regulations are due by August 27, 2010.