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Guest Thinkers

Choosing Who Is By Your Side

On Wednesday, Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the House voted to repeal last year’s health care reform bill. Repeal won’t get pass the Senate—although Republicans insist the vote isn’t merely symbolic—but the vote is part of a backlash against the Democrats’ signature accomplishment of the last two years. Support for the health care reform bill is more mixed than that vote might suggest, but a CBS/New York Times poll found that while more Americans favor keeping the bill than repealing it, just 13% say they’ve benefited from the provision of the bill already in effect.

But while the debate over the future of health care reform rages on, there is one regulatory change that I can certainly get behind. The new hospital visitation regulations that President Obama directed Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to implement—they aren’t part of the Affordable Care Act—finally went into effect on Tuesday. The regulations prevent hospitals which receive Medicare and Medicaid funding from denying visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and they allow patients to decide for themselves who is allowed to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf.

As Joan McCarter writes, the regulation was in part inspired by the story of Janice Langbehn, who was kept—along with their three children—from her partner of 18 years’ bedside as her partner lay dying after suffering an aneurysm. While policy is especially good news for gay and lesbian families who have struggled to get visitation rights in many hospitals, you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to want the right to have the people you love—whoever they may be—by your side.


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