New regulation requires hospitals to let patients decide who can visit them

The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled a proposed rule that would require hospitals to allow patients to designate their visitors, regardless of whether they are legally related. 

The proposed rule follows President Barack Obama's April 15 memorandum calling for regulations that bar hospitals participating in Medicare and Medicaid from denying visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The presidential memorandum also directed that the rulemaking take into account the need for a participating hospital to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances.

The proposed rule is available for public comment for 60 days and will be finalized after the agency that oversees Medicare reviews it. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to the leaders of major hospital associations on Tuesday asking them to encourage their member hospitals to get a jump start on the regulations and review their policies as soon as possible.