The White House Blog

New Rules Require Equal Visitation Rights For All Patients

Earlier this year, President Obama called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create new rules for Medicare and Medicaid hospitals that would allow patients the right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay. The Presidential 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.

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued that rule – a rule that will let patients decide whom they want by their bedside when they are sick – and that includes a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. The rule presents an important step forward in giving all Americans more control over their health care.

The new rules:

  • Require 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. 
  • Require hospitals 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.
  • Specify that all visitors chosen by the patient must be able to enjoy “full and equal” visitation privileges consistent with the wishes of the patient.
  • 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.

CMS finalized the rules based on thousands of comments from patient advocates, the hospital community, and other stakeholders. The rules will be effective 60 days after publication. 

For more information about the rules, visit CMS’ website: http://www.cms.gov/CFCsAndCoPs/06_Hospitals.asp and http://www.cms.gov/CFCsAndCoPs/03_CAHs.asp.