Bill Description: House Bill 601 would require residential care and assisted living facilities to allow their residents to receive in-person visits.
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?
The last two years have revealed that laws meant to protect residents of residential care and assisted living facilities have been insufficient. Specifically, they have not prevented those facilities from denying residents and their families in-person access to each other.
House Bill 601 would amend Section 39-3316, Idaho Code, to require residential care and assisted living facilities to permit "immediate in-person access to a resident, subject to the resident's right to deny or withdraw consent at any time, by immediate family or other relatives." This language was on the books, save for the term “in-person.” Many facilities exploited that loophole by limiting residents and their families to virtual, screen-based access.
While House Bill 601 requires facilities to allow in-person access, it allows for a number of restrictions. These include "requiring a visitor to submit to health screenings necessary to prevent the spread of infectious diseases; restricting a visitor who does not pass a health screening requirement or who has tested positive for an infectious disease; requiring a visitor to adhere to infection control procedures, including wearing personal protective equipment; and limiting the number of persons in a room at one time pursuant to occupancy laws and the normal visitation policy."
It's unfortunate to see Idaho Code being amended in a way that gives legal cover to facility managers who want to impose mask mandates.
An additional provision does, however, clarify that in-person visits "shall not be precluded on the basis of a visitor's vaccination status." Adding "or resident's" before "vaccination status" would help to strengthen and clarify this protection.
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