Medicare Finalizes Rules Requiring Equal Visitation Rights for All Hospital Patients Including Gay Partners

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued new rules for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals stemming from a memo issued by President Obama this spring. Read the memo HERE.

According to a release from the Department of Health and Human Services:

Sebelius The new rules follow from an April 15, 2010 Presidential Memorandum, in which President Obama tasked HHS with developing standards for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals (including critical access hospitals) that would require them to respect the right of all patients to choose who may visit them when they are an inpatient of a hospital.  The President’s memorandum instructed HHS to develop rules that would prohibit hospitals from denying visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  It also directed that the rules take into account the need for a hospital to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances.

The rules require hospitals to have written policies and procedures detailing patients’ visitation rights, as well as the circumstances under which the hospitals may restrict patient access to visitors based on reasonable clinical needs.

A key provision of the rules specifies that all visitors chosen by the patient (or his or her representative) must be able to enjoy “full and equal” visitation privileges consistent with the wishes of the patient (or his or her representative). 

The rules update the Conditions of Participation (CoPs), which are the health and safety standards all Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet, and are applicable to all patients of those hospitals regardless of payer source.

Among other things, the rules impose new requirements on hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or other type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time. 

Said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured):

“Basic human rights—such as your ability to choose your own support system in a time of need—must not be checked at the door of America’s hospitals. Today’s rules help give ‘full and equal’ rights to all of us to choose whom we want by our bedside when we are sick, and override any objection by a hospital or staffer who may disagree with us for any non-clinical reason.”


  1. ratbastard says

    Yeah…how much is the Obama administration cutting out of Medicare [and medicaid]? The coming years are going to be rough. Good luck finding a doc who’ll treat you with medicare and medicaid.

  2. AdamA says

    I’m glad this is expansive: hospitals have to regard a patient’s wishes about who can visit them, gay, straight, whatever. It was ridiculous that heterosexual couples had to marry to be important enough to visit.

  3. Keith says

    Just wait two years when Obama is voted out of office, and the Republican administration reverses everything (little that it is). Unless an actual law by the House/Senate and signed by the President is completed, these things are merely temporal and have little viable substance. After all, look at what happened in Virginia under the new administration on one of the first days they arrived in office. We’d be naive to think such changes are lasting since there is actually no defensable “law” on the books protecting our rights.

  4. peterparker says

    That’s great. Now when do we gain the rights to sponsor a foreign born partner for immigration as our spouse, file taxes jointly, receive the same inheritance rights as straight couples, and on and on and on and on…?

  5. Joe says

    This is seemingly small, but very important.

    Its nice to see the Obama admin doing something like this since it doesn’t require congress. Of course, it’s probably one of those issues that 85-90% of Americans support, so…

  6. Keppler says

    This is a crumb, and not even our crumb. What the new rules do is define around the problem by eliminating any notion of “relationship” from the rules about who may visit a hospitalized patient. Gay people no longer need to be married to visit their “friends” according to the new rules. I guess I should be grateful, but this actually pisses me off.

  7. booka says

    Go ahead, think of it as not much of anything. For myself, having been on the business end of a situation where my dieing lovers bitch mother tryed to have my hospital visitations cut…somehow I was able to create some dignity for us, before he died, and she took everything away. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to forget that horror. If no other Gay man has to suffer this again then it is a thing well done.

  8. Fenrox says

    Wow, So Kieth, What do you propose here? Mock all progress made for two years then complain about Obama, hoping for him to lose?

    You guys need to lighten up. Public opinion and feelings are important to progress. IE: If everyone is scared and crushed we get politics and world states that we have had for the last (take your pick but I would say for the last 9 years we have had a noticeable push in large scale opinion manipulation) __ years.

    Whereas if everyone thought that things are getting better, that progress is inevitable and people remained calm, we would have a much different political climate.

    That change can start with you. Try not to be rigidly on any side, try not to let news bring you up and down, try to remain calm and collected and help others do the same. A calm and rational people can get anything done.

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