CMS disaster rules leave smaller providers scrambling

New disaster preparedness rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have healthcare leaders rushing to comply by the federal government’s deadline.

Most healthcare organizations covered by the new mandate already had some form of emergency preparedness plan in place due to accreditation requirements, according to The New York Times. However, hundreds of providers, including residential psychiatric facilities, outpatient hospices and community mental health centers, are starting from scratch.

Government estimates project a $279 million cost to implement the rule, according to the publication, but some industry leaders believe it will be more, particularly for smaller providers.

“Funding to offset preparedness activities has decreased,” Barbara B. Citarella, the president of RBC Limited, a healthcare consultant in Staatsburg, New York, told the Times. “My concern is that compliance for some providers, especially home care and hospice, will be financially impossible.”

The final rule emphasize CMS’ belief that in the long term, such costs will pale next to the benefits of investing in preparations. “Planning for the protection and care of patients, clients, residents, and staff during an emergency or a disaster is a good business practice,” it states.

Moreover, the rule will increase the likelihood that hospitals are able to work through an emergency or disaster without closing, Nicole Lurie, the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told the Times. Indeed, she said, the driving principle behind the rules is the fact that patients don’t stop needing care simply due to flooding or downed trees. Support for staff during this period is also vital, FierceHealthcare previously reported.