Hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid have new rules to follow concerning patient rights. Earlier this month, the federal Department of Health and Human Services implemented the new federal regulations that were first proposed by President Obama in 2010.
Now, hospitals must inform patients they have the right to choose who is able to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Before the change, patient visitors were limited to blood relatives or spouses. But this policy impacted same-sex couples especially in hospitals located in states that did not recognize same-sex partners or spouses as family. Janson Wu, staff attorney with Boston based legal group, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders or GLAD said the President supported the rule change after hearing the story of Janice Langbehn, who in 2007 was unable to be at her spouse's side as she lay dying. "I think that when you hear the stories of what same sex couples have to go through and the hoops and hurdles just to be able to see each other in the hospital, people really understand that that just isn't right." Besides sexual orientation, the rule prohibits hospitals from discriminating against individuals based on gender, race, religion, or disability. Hospitals are likely to pay attention to the new federal regulations because if they don't, they will lose Medicare and Medicaid funding.