Federal healthcare facility disaster-preparedness rule still stalled

Medicare, Medicaid payments would be tied to preparedness plans, drills
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A proposed federal rule requiring hospitals and other healthcare facilities to prepare for emergencies as a condition of Medicare and Medicaid funding would affect more than 68,000 providers, according to a news analysis.by The New York Times.

But the rule, in the works since 2007 and made public as a draft in 2013, appears stalled, according to the article. The Office of Management and Budget recently said its 90-day review period had been extended.

Industry groups have been critical of the time and expense they said would be involved in steps such as test backup power generators more frequently and for longer periods, or to pay staff overtime during drills.

The rule would apply to nursing homes, kidney dialysis centers, psychiatric treatment facilities, home health agency and organ transplant procurement organizations as well as hospitals. It would require regular disaster drills, plans for continuing services during power failures, and systems to track and treat patients displaced by disasters, according to the article.

"We want to see more deliberate and systematic planning," former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala told Congress in prepared remarks last week.

According to the newspaper, Medicare estimates the rule would cost hospitals $8,000 on average in the first year and skilled nursing facilities about $1,300. The American Health Care Association challenges the estimates.

The American Hospital Association was largely in agreement with the proposal, according to the Times, but suggested aligning the requirements with those of other groups including the Joint Commission.

In 2014 the AHA warned the proposed rule could cost hospitals $225 million, FierceHealthcare previously reported. But natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and the Joplin, Missouri, tornado--all of which dramatically affected acute-care hospitals--continue to test the preparedness and resiliency of healthcare facilities.

To learn more:
- here's the NYT article

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