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The Emergency Preparedness Rule

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized a rule recently in light of the most recent natural disasters in Louisiana that compromised the safety and well being of many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries throughout the affected area. Unfortunately, this rule came as a direct response not only to the devastating natural disasters we have experienced within the last decade, but the man made disasters as well, including terrorist attacks and health care scares. The rule was established in order to provider coordination for federal, estate, tribal, regional and local systems, that will now be required to comply with a unified system of emergency preparedness.

 

The need for additional support was realized when several patients who received treatment covered under Medicare or Medicaid were not able to obtain their care in light of the disaster, which furthered their need thereafter for additional care. Some of the organizations that provide care have complied with other emergency preparedness measures in order to receive accreditation, many residential mental health centers do not have a plan established, leaving a very vulnerable population without help in times of need.

In an effort to individualize emergency preparedness requirements, the new rules will apply to all 17 provider types, but will be different for each in order to receive certification. In order to comply with the rules, an annual training program will be implemented in order to ensure compliance and staff will be subject to drills and exercises to demonstrate their knowledge of the emergency rules.

 

While it has been generally well received, critics are concerned about the potential monetary impact it may have on the smaller facilities who are already struggling to comply with current regulations. The Department listened to these concerns and addressed some in the final rule, compromising to avoid unnecessary costs associated with the implementation. These changes included removing some testing proposals for generators and now requiring that institutions meet National Fire Protection Association standards for testing generators, due to the concerns regarding prolonged power outages.

These power outages result in the preventable loss of many lives and the feature to accessing help was an issue that had to be addressed as part of this proposal. Today, medical needs of patients vastly differ and will continue to do so with a large aging population, thus, developing a plan to prepare for the worst will benefit not only hospitals that get swarmed during emergency times, but those medical facilities as well, and most importantly, the patient.

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