Missouri patient visitation law could cost hospitals $20.9M, mostly for gowns, masks

A Missouri law barring hospitals from limiting patient visits is 11 times more expensive than early projections predicted, and the cost of personal protective equipment is driving the expense, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Oct. 12. 

The law, named the No Patients Left Behind Act, requires the state's 36 public hospitals to allow at least two visitors to see patients during visitation hours for emergency cases. When it was signed in May, researchers forecasted the act to cost hospitals $1.9 million, but the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services found that figure raised to $20.9 million. 

A majority of the new forecasted costs are due to supplying gowns, masks and gloves to the visitors, according to the Post-Dispatch

"There are a lot of variables," MHA spokesperson Dave Dillon told the Post-Dispatch. "This was our best guess."

Variables include bed capacity and whether the visitors — which the law refers to as "essential caregivers" — follow health protocols or show signs of infection. 

The legislation was the result of outcries during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when hospitals imposed limits on visitors to reduce the risk of spread, according to the Post-Dispatch. Mr. Dillon said implementing the act wouldn't necessarily be as expensive as the latest analysis projects because the federal government could help reduce these costs by supplying additional funding.

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