Hospitals push back against proposed disaster plan regs

In late 2013, the federal government proposed broad new disaster preparedness regulations for hospitals and other healthcare orgnaizations, but a leading hospital trade group says the costs are too prohibitive and could run as high as $225 million, the New York Times reports.

The proposed rule requires that hospitals create contingency plans for lighting, temperature, waste disposal and fire safety systems in the event of an emergency. The organizations must also track displaced patients, offer care in alternate locations and coordinate volunteers, the article states. Government officials have three years to finalize the rule, according to the article; the comment period ends later this month.

The proposal also calls for hospitals to conduct annual tests of backup generators instead of every three years. The tests take about four hours and could involve burdensome labor and fuel costs, according to the article. Federal officials "may have significantly underestimated the burden and cost associated with complying with this rule," the American Hospital Association said in a member advisory in January.  

After Sept. 11, the government provided state and local health departments with grants to help hospitals and other healthcare organizations stockpile equipment and improve disaster readiness. But this time around, the rule makes preparedness a condition to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. Furthermore, the proposed rule applies to 17 different provider types, accounting for an estimated 9 million patients fee-for-service patients monthly. Officials told the Times that they took this approach to make sure healthcare systems pull together during a crisis.

Government officials project it will cost an average of $8,000 per hospital to implement the rule, but this figure does not include additional costs, such as upgrading emergency power systems to comply with air conditioning requirements, the article states.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded states, territories and large cities more than $300 million to help hospitals prepare for emergencies and improve surge capacity, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Around the same time, 10 states announced a new exchange to preserve records for patients displaced by disasters.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the proposed rule
- read the AHA advisory (.pdf)