Connecticut hospitals are ahead of the curve when it comes to hospital visitation rights.
LGBT families are now guaranteed by law the same hospital visitation rights as other families. Under federal regulations that came into force Jan. 18, hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs must ensure all visitors have full and equal visitation rights, with no restrictions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But most hospitals in Connecticut, including Yale-New Haven Hospital, said Thursday that their existing policies already complied with the new requirements.
The requirements are part of a memorandum President Barack Obama announced last April, which will also make it easier for LGBT individuals to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners. Hospitals that fail to comply with the new requirements could be removed from the Medicare program or made ineligible to receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.
For most Connecticut hospitals, discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is already a thing of the past.
Jeannette Hodge, director of patient relations, volunteer and guest services at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said the hospital had changed its visitation policies in the early 2000s to ensure non-discrimination. Since then, the hospital has allowed patients to define who constitutes their family for the purposes of visitation, she explained.
Other hospitals, like the mid-sized Hebrew Home and Hospital in Westport have been unaffected by the changes because of existing open visitation policies, a public relations representative from the hospital said.
“Our patients are usually old, so we’ve never had a problem with [LGBT discrimination],” she said. “But we do have an open visitation policy.”
Four other hospitals contacted, including the Masonic Healthcare Center and Bridgeport, Danbury, and Hartford hospitals, said their policies were already in line with the federal regulations.
But one of the city’s major hospitals has had to make changes as a result of the new legislation.
Lisa Klein ’88, a spokesperson for New Haven’s Hospital of St. Raphael, said the hospital was revising its written policy to reflect the new regulations on patient visitation.
“But we’ve always extended visitation rights beyond blood relatives and relatives by marriage based on clinical judgment,” she added.
Gay and lesbian rights activists have applauded the new regulations.
Evan Wolfson ’78, executive director of Freedom to Marry, called President Obama’s memorandum a “small, but welcome, step forward.”
“[The change] addresses one of the many ways same-sex couples and their loved ones are made vulnerable and harmed by the denial of marriage and the safety-net of protections marriage brings,” he said in an April statement.
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative group based in Georgia, said in a press release that he primarily objected to Obama’s imposition medical rights for same-sex couples, not the rights themselves.
Grace Patuwo contributed reporting.