Draft Hospital Visitation Rule Published; HHS & HRC Call For Immediate, Voluntary Enactment
June 23, 2010
Today the Department of Health and Human Services released the draft regulation requiring all hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding to adopt policies that protect the visitation rights of all patients, including LGBT people. The draft language requires hospitals to adopt written policies and procedures regarding patient visitation rights including the right to designate visitors of one’s choosing, “including, but not limited to, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), another family member, or a friend,” and the right to visitation privileges regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to HHS, the draft rule will be published in the Federal Register on June 28 and the agency will solicit public comments on the proposal for 60 days. Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called on healthcare facilities to adopt the new standards even before the formal rulemaking is complete. This news follows a recent announcement from the Joint Commission – the largest hospital accrediting body in the nation – that it will soon require hospitals to adopt non-discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. HRC joins in the Secretary's call for voluntary enactment and we provide resources to hospitals and other facilities to institute inclusive visitation and non-discrimination policies. Those materials are available at www.hrc.org/HEI. Currently, our staff is reviewing the proposed regulation and will provide HHS with suggestions to clarify and strengthen its protections for LGBT families during the comment period. Further, we plan on launching a national action alert once the comment period is open to facilitate the ability of LGBT Americans to weigh in on this important change.