Medicare Steps Up Enforcement of Equal Visitation and Representation Rights for Same Sex Partners in Hospitals

Miguel Gomez

Miguel Gomez

CMSYesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidance to support enforcement of rules that protect hospital patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. These rules, finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November, apply to all hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.  The guidance also supports enforcement of the right of patients to designate the person of their choice, including a same-sex partner, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.

“Couples take a vow to be with each other in sickness and in health and it is unacceptable that, in the past, some same-sex partners were denied the right to visit their loved ones in times of need,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are releasing guidance for enforcing new rules that give all patients, including those with same-sex partners, the right to choose who can visit them in the hospital as well as enhancing existing guidance regarding the right to choose who will help make medical decisions on their behalf.”

CMS today sent a letter to State Survey Agencies (SSAs), which conduct on-site inspections of hospitals on behalf of CMS. The letter highlights the equal visitation and representation rights requirements and directs SSAs to be aware of the guidance when evaluating hospitals’ compliance with Conditions of Participation, which are the health and safety standards all Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet.

In other news of interest to the LGBT community, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), another agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, also announced yesterday a $248,000 grant to the Fenway Institute to create a National Training and Technical Assistance Center to help community health centers improve the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations. “This award is an important step in HHS’ continuing effort to provide health care services to all people recognizing that different groups of people may have distinctive health care needs,” said Secretary Sebelius.


  1. Curtis Battenfield says:

    It is about time the our government protect the rights of all its citizens, it is a shame that new laws must be inacted for all americans to get the same equal rights. Persons of same-sex partnership share a home, dreams, hopes, love, children, their last wishes, the trust of knowing each will do the right things for the other, and the hurt they share from the Fathers and Mothers whom disown them and put them out on the streets, because they are gay. It’s a crime to let them keep the one person that understand and loves them more then anyone else, from making decisions about each other’s health care, their death and legal issues is criminal and inhuman to the love they share and their children (if they have them).

  2. Ambritt Myers-Lytell says:

    I feel that as an lesbian, i should always have the right to chose who i would like to come and visit when in the hospital. I’m going into the hospital in about 3 weeks and i would hate for someone to tell me who can visit and who can’t. The thing with this is that we have all kinds of people making descisions for the gay community and half the people making these rules or descisions are not even gay,lesbisan or bisexual at all. its really a shame that someone else can tell you who to visit and who not too.

  3. Yeah, RIGHT - sure says:

    It is NOT a right if you cannot enforce it when you need it.
    It is NOT a right if must pay a private court to enforce it.
    It is NOT A RIGHT!
    IT IS A LIE!

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