On April 15, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate rules to ensure that patients, including lesbians and gay men, have the right to designate visitors and decision makers other than immediate family members while in a hospital setting.
All hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid will be required to respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. Designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. Participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The President specifically requested that the Secretary "Provide additional recommendations to me, within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, on actions the Department of Health and Human Services can take to address hospital visitation, medical decisionmaking, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families." While the memorandum is not a law or federal mandate it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Make sure that you have durable powers of attorney (POA) in place for your family that were drafted by competent counsel and are notarized. I always recommend that my clients obtain several notarized copies so there is a set in every automobile, the home and in your suitcase when you travel. If you have not, or cannot obtain second parent adoption for any of the children in your family, be sure to execute POA's for them as well. While the requirements of POA's vary from state to state, a notarized document is more likely to be accepted when you travel out of your home state.
Within the next year, we should see a regulation and/or administrative mandate requiring all Medicaid and Medicare participating hospitals to amend their policies and procedures to reflect the essence of President Obama's message: Respect.