Federal regulations require hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs (which is the vast majority of hospitals) to adopt written policies and procedures regarding patients’ right to designate the visitors of their choice, including a prohibition on discrimination in visitation based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hospital visitation can also be impacted by relationship recognition laws (marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships) or separate visitation statutes. See a map of states that allow hospital visitation through relationship recognition laws.
Regardless of these regulations and laws, LGBTQ people may want to create a Hospital Visitation Directive which is a document that directs healthcare providers to allow your loved ones to visit you in the hospital. For more information, see Tools for Protecting your Health Care Wishes from Lambda Legal’s Take the Power life and financial toolkit.
All hospitals that are accredited by The Joint Commission (which is the vast majority of hospitals) are prohibited from discriminating against patients based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, The Joint Commission does not require these hospitals to have a written patient non-discrimination policy outlining their non-discrimination standards nor do they have any specific requirements about the training of hospital staff regarding these policies or LGBTQ cultural competency. HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index has found that many hospitals have failed to adopt written non-discrimination policies that include both sexual orientation and gender identity.
If you experience discrimination at a hospital, you should follow the hospital’s grievance process. In addition, you may file a complaint directly with The Joint Commission.
Healthcare Bill of Rights
HRC is a proud Partner of the Healthcare Bill of Rights, a short document for LGBTQ patients that summarizes our rights in healthcare. You may download the Healthcare Bill of Rights [PDF] and the convenient wallet-sized cads [PDF].