Hospitals which participate in Medicare and Medicaid must now respect the right of a patient to have visitors of his or her choosing, thanks to new federal regulations regarding hospital visitation rights. Hospitals are also prohibited from denying visitation privileges or otherwise discriminating against visitors based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Patients' visitation rights must be written in the hospitals' policies and procedures.
These new regulations do not lessen the need for health care directives, however. Because the new regulations do not address who may visit an incapacitated patient who does not have a Health Care Power of Attorney, it is very important to designate someone to make health-care decisions for you, either in a Health Care Power of Attorney or some other legal document.