Kansas lawmakers seek to ensure visitation in nursing homes and hospitals after COVID-19

As of last week, 10,093 Kansans had died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic almost three years ago. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus killed 141 nursing home residents per week during December 2020. As the pandemic raged on, and the guidance loosened from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS). Facilities set strict time intervals or curbed the number of incoming guests for visits. For some legislators, this issue was a personal one.

Under a new bill, HB 2264, facilities would not be able to limit visitation from either a close family member, partner or caregiver identified by a patient or, if a patient was incapacitated, a person’s power-of-attorney could pick who would be allowed to visit. It also would require facilities allow for two visitors in end-of-life situations.

Conservative legislators appear receptive to those concerns. Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said she was unsure how the bill’s requirements would differ from what is current practice.

Dan Goodman, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, concurred, saying that without requiring infection control policies and other regulations across the board, the legislation wasn’t especially potent.

“They have residents’ rights, but let’s make sure that everybody’s abiding by those rights,” he said in an interview. “And making sure that their family members have access.”

Goodman said while his group had largely stayed out of the debate over the legislation, he was encouraged to see patients’ rights and aging issues more broadly get attention in the Statehouse.

But action on other funding and structural changes, such as a greater embrace of community-based care, he said was still needed.

“I think there is some good in general in having these discussions, but you know, it’s all about results, right?” Goodman said. “Like, if it doesn’t result in much, then you know, it’s just talk.”

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