Post submitted by Shane Snowdon, former HRC Director, Health & Aging Program

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality rulings, the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which regulates the nation’s long-term care facilities, has issued guidance that the nation’s long-term care facilities “must ensure that all individuals seeking to visit a resident be given full and equal visitation privileges.”

In a guidance document circulated nationwide, CMS told the facilities, “Residents must be notified of their rights to have visitors on a 24-hour basis, who could include, but are not limited to, spouses (including same-sex spouses), domestic partners (including same-sex domestic partners), other family members, or friends.”

The full and equal visitation requirement, like other CMS requirements, will be enforced in part by surveyors who regularly visit long-term care facilities. CMS advised the surveyors that they “should ask during resident and family member interviews if they understand that visitors are allowed 24 hours a day. They should ask whether the facility has restricted or limited any visitors.”

Added CMS, “If these interviews indicate that residents do not understand visitation policies or that the facility has limited or restricted visitors against resident wishes and outside of any reasonable restrictions, the surveyor should review the circumstances around those restrictions/limitations, interview facility staff and evaluate the facility’s visitation policies.” CMS surveys are generally taken very seriously by long-term care facilities.

In addition, every state has a process that allows nursing home residents, their family members and friends to file complaints about violations of CMS requirements in nursing homes. Same-sex spouses and partners who encounter less than full and equal visitation in nursing home settings are encouraged to contact their state enforcement unit, which can be found online.

Tomorrow, HRC will launch the 2013 Healthcare Equality Index, a unique and invaluable resource for healthcare organizations seeking to provide equitable, inclusive LGBT Americans- and for LGBT Americans seeking healthcare organizations with a demonstrated commitment to their care. LGBT patients can search the report to learn which facilities have participated in the HEI, and which have been designated as Equality Leaders.

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Filed under: Health & Aging, Community

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