A Category 5 Compliance Problem: Hurricane Irma Gives Providers a Stark Reminder of Emergency Preparedness Realities

Health Care   |   September 19, 2017
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The havoc that Hurricane Irma caused in the Caribbean and most of Florida reminds us of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirements for emergency preparedness, which take effect November 15.

CMS’ 2016 final rule requires Medicare and Medicaid participating providers and suppliers to plan for natural and man-made disasters in collaboration with federal, state, regional, and local emergency preparedness organizations.

Last year, our alert on this subject highlighted the following key action items for participating providers:

  • conduct a risk assessment,
  • develop an emergency plan,
  • implement policies and procedures to execute the emergency plan,
  • communicate the plan within the facility and across health care providers,
  • develop training and testing programs, and
  • update the plan annually.

Providers should revisit the final rule and their existing emergency preparation plans to ensure compliance. While having a CMS-compliant plan may lessen scrutiny from Florida’s universal health care payor, it is also meant to prevent the senseless loss of life that affected residents of this South Florida nursing facility. In light of Hurricane Irma and the related nursing home deaths, Florida Governor Rick Scott enacted an emergency rule related to emergency operations of assisted living facilities six days after the storm. The emergency rule establishes a process by which assisted living facilities shall obtain, operate, and maintain generator(s) and fuel sufficient to maintain an air temperature of 80 degrees for 96 hours (four days) after the loss of electric power. The rule requires compliance with certain provisions within 45 days and 60 days.

For providers looking to assess their existing plans for compliance or those needing qualified legal counsel to assist in preparing a plan, our health care attorneys stand ready to assist. Please stay tuned for a Carlton Fields podcast outlining details and providing tips for providers navigating potential emergency situations.

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