Bill Description: House Bill 193 would
clarify who qualifies as an “essential caregiver” for a patient in a care facility, and require most care facilities to allow in-person visits between patients and essential caregivers.
NOTE: House Bill 193 is at least the fourth bill introduced this year on the subject of in-person visits to patients in hospitals and care facilities. Previously rated bills from this session include Senate Bill 1012, House Bill 64, and House Bill 121.
NOTE: House Bill 193 was "radiator capped" by the Senate, which is a term used to describe replacing every part of a vehicle except the radiator cap. In this case, the entire bill was replaced by the amendment. The replacement language from the amendment strips out many of the positive attributes of the original bill, leaving only one minor improvement to the current law, clarifying that a resident's right to "visitation from an essential caregiver" includes "in-person" visitation.
Unfortunately, the bill also removes "certified family homes" and "group homes" from the list of institutions governed under this section, effectively stripping residents of such facilities of their right to visitation from essential caregivers.
Given the removal of most of the valuable parts of the original bill and this concerning removal of rights from residents of certified family homes and group homes, the rating of this bill has been changed from (+1) to (0).
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.
House Bill 193 would amend several sections of code In Chapter 98, Title 39, Idaho Code, relating to essential caregivers.
First, the bill would expand the definition of an essential caregiver to include "a patient's or resident's spouse, adult child, parent, guardian, conservator, or health care agent."
It would say that "the term 'essential caregiver' also includes any person designated by a patient or resident to visit the patient or resident in person at a facility, provided that essential caregivers for patients or residents who are minors or incapacitated shall be designated by a person with legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the patient or resident, such as a parent, guardian, or conservator."
The bill also adds legislative findings about the importance of association and "deleterious effects on a person's health and well-being" caused by "involuntary isolation."
The bill provides for situations in which a "patient or resident is unable to request visitation due to unconsciousness, incapacitation, or lack of awareness," clarifying that in such cases, "a patient's or resident's spouse, adult child, parent, guardian, conservator, or health care agent" still has the right to visit.
Facilities would also be required to "establish a policy to ensure that the facility's obligations to respect and enforce patient and resident rights under this chapter are satisfied."
While the changes called for by House Bill 193 would improve the existing statute, some of the current language that remains is still very troubling. For example, there is a provision that says, "The essential caregiver must follow safety and other protocols imposed by the facility, and a facility may place reasonable restrictions as to where and when the essential caregiver may visit."
What is lacking here (and what is present in Senate Bill 1012) is an explicit statement that a facility may not require visitors to submit proof of any vaccination or immunization. This is a very important clarification.
Another shortcoming with this bill is the lack of any enforcement mechanism. Time can be incredibly critical when someone is in a hospital or care facility. Without any criminal sanctions against impeding in-person contact, the rights asserted under this section cannot be effectively protected.