Bill Description: House Bill 121 would clarify that patients’ right to receive visitors while in a hospital, hospice, or long-term care facility includes in-person visits.
NOTE: House Bill 121 is nearly identical to House Bill 64, which was introduced earlier this session. The only change is that House Bill 121 expands the limitations that may be placed on in-person visits. It allows facilities to require visitors to pay for any personal protective equipment the facility may require them to wear.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
Among the many egregious violations of individual rights we witnessed over the last several years, one of the most troubling was the callous denial of patients’ right to in-person visits with friends and family while bedridden or confined to a hospital or care facility.
In extreme cases, we even saw people denied access to their loved ones who were in their final hours, a truly unprecedented level of cruelty perpetrated against both patients and their families.
Over the last few legislative sessions, we have seen various efforts to combat these problems, including Senate Bill 1012 (Freedom Index rating: +3), introduced earlier this session.
Compared to these efforts, House Bill 64 proposes only a modest change to existing law, adding "in-person" to two subsections under Section 39-3316, Idaho Code, one of which allows for access to a resident by "immediate family or other relatives."
Unfortunately, House Bill 121 does not contain any provision which prevents this in-person access from being denied on the basis of vaccination status (something found in Senate Bill 1012). House Bill 121 also contains a new subsection giving facilities the right to limit and curtail in-person access.
Among the newly legalized impediments to in-person visitation would be measures "requiring a visitor to submit to health screenings necessary to prevent the spread of infectious diseases" and those "requiring a visitor to adhere to infection control procedures, including covering the cost of and wearing personal protective equipment." This provision allows facilities to force masking on visitors.
Also, unlike with Senate Bill 1012, House Bill 121 provides no enforcement mechanism and no penalties for facilities that deny visitors in-person access to residents.
While the clarification that facilities must allow "in-person" visits is a good thing, the series of limitations placed on this right and lack of an enforcement mechanism are troubling.