New Rules on Hospital Visitation Rights for Same-Sex Couples Take Effect

Federal regulations designed to protect the hospital visitation and decision making rights of patients and their families, with a particular focus on same-sex partners, came into effect this week.

The new regulations apply to all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs. As highlighted at the time, this does not create a new right to access but reinforces the current law that, if a same-sex spouse has been granted power of attorney or has been designated by the patient as having visitor rights, such rights must be respected or the hospital may face cuts in their funding.

The new rules as written on the White House blog:

  • 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.

This is the result of a memorandum signed by President Obama in April of last year.

The president was apparently moved by the story of Janice Langbehn who was refused access to partner Lisa Pond as she lay dying in a Miami hospital despite having the proper legal documents in place. With this in mind President Obama duly directed the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations protecting hospital visitation rights.

While these protections are limited in scope to work within the purview of the Defense of Marriage Act and do not patch all the holes in coverage that same-sex partners face, the changes will be welcomed by same-sex couples who, like Janice Langbehn and her family, faced being (illegally) prevented from seeing their ill spouse or partner.

It is critical to stress, though, that the regulations will only benefit same-sex couples if they have completed their advanced health care directives and taken other appropriate steps to declare their wishes.

For more information in how you can protect your visitation rights, please click here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to -Marlith-.


Mac R.
Mac R7 years ago

Arvin E, that line is golden!!! "Remember: Science will fly you to the moon and religion will fly you into buildings."

Ralph F, that's not what happened at all! I know that's not what happened because MY holy book tells me what really happened and it IS THE TRUTH, God told me so.

Here's what really happened: God made Adam and Eve, Eve ate an apple and got pregnant, so she wasn't in the mood anymore and Adam complained, so God made Adam a cute florist named Bob and they lived together in wedded bliss forever while Eve moved into a HUD apartment and lived on Welfare until new God Ronald Reagan took her Welfare away. Her kids Cain and Able started the Republiscum and Democrat parties and Cain cheated and lied all the time and finally sold Able to Monsanto and they spliced his genes so that he was just as screwed up as they were and they all took the country down in a blaze of corporate money! Amen.

Arvin E.
Arvin E.7 years ago

Ralph K. You are a mean person and pathetic. It would be good for you to read a book on human sexuality through history and try a little understanding about love amonst people.
Malanie K. Thank you for your 21st. century view of people. Oh, how I wish more people held your sensible views.
I wonder about the VA? Doesn't sound like this applies. When the preacher man visited me in the Va hosp. I thanked him for the visit although since I am HIV he stayed out side the door. When asked by the Dr. if I thought there was an after life or after death the bugs got us, I assured him in my view our bodies fed the bugs and that was it. Needless to say, the preacher man didn't come around again.
When asked by the Dr. how I got HIV, I assured him that it was from F-ing around and that it doesn't matter since it can't be undone only dealt with by science.
Remember: Science will fly you to the moon and religion will fly you into buildings.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

noted :0

David N.
David N7 years ago

About time long over due just hope these new regulations and such are enforced! A patient has every right to specify who can and can not visit or decide on his/her behalf!!

Stephen Young
Stephen Young7 years ago

not before time

Ralph F.
Ralph F.7 years ago

Yes we should have the right to visit anyone who is sick or dying, but the subject of being gay is of another point of dieas. When this world began and as most of us know that God created the world he did not create Adam and Steve, He created Adam & Eve. There is suppose to a difference. Male should not be with male and female should not be with female it is an abomination unto God and morality. It is a choice not a sickness. There should be reason for any man or woman to want to be with the same sex for anything other than friendship.

David M.
David M.7 years ago


Susanne R.
Susanne R7 years ago

I'm glad this issue is being addressed. My heart goes out to all the same-sex couples whose love and commitment to one another is fraught with so many unfair and unnecessary challenges.

pam w.
pam w7 years ago

Of course! It's about time!

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

It's a good first step, but I wish it could be applied to *all* hospitals, not just those participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs.