- Medicare and Medicaid providers and suppliers will be required to comply with what CMS says are the "best practice standards" for emergency preparedness once the regulations in the final rule released late Thursday become effective.
- The four new standards are based on emergency planning, policies and procedures, a communication plan, as well as training and testing programs.
- The rule was proposed in 2013 and it was made open to stakeholder comments, which resulted in several changes, according to CMS.
The final rule comes at a time when Americans have become increasingly aware of the lack of proper regulations for emergency preparedness. Many have been adamantly arguing the country is unable to properly address hazardous events like outbreaks of infectious diseases (eg. Zika virus), as well as, natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes as they have, among other issues, led to the closure of certain healthcare facilities, leaving patients throughout the impacted area without access to care.
“All parts of the healthcare system must be able to keep providing care through a disaster, both to save lives and to ensure that people can continue to function in their usual setting," Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a prepared statement. "Disasters tend to stress the entire health care system, and that’s not good for anyone,” Lurie added.
CMS admitted Medicare's existing regulations for emergency preparedness were "not comprehensive enough to address the complexities." After reviewing comments from stakeholders following the release of the proposed rule, CMS made several revisions to the final version, the agency stated in a press release. In contrast with the draft, the final rule does not require additional hours for generator testing but it does allow third party facilities to participate in a health system's emergency preparedness program.
When the regulations become effective (60 days after its been published on the Federal Register), Medicare and Medicaid providers will have one year to develop and implement:
- An emergency plan with an all-hazards approach based on risk assessment
- Policies and procedures centered around the emergency plan and risk assessment
- A communication plan in accordance with federal and state laws
- A training and testing program, which must include initial and annual trainings, and drills that can put the emergency plan to the test.