- The federal government is poised to release a rule that would require hospitals and other healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to be prepared to deal with hurricanes, bioterrorism, infectious disease outbreaks and other unexpected disasters.
- Currently undergoing review by the Office of Management and Budget, the rule would require providers to institute plans for continuing services during power outages and for tracking and treating displaced persons. They would also have to conduct disaster readiness drills, The New York Times reported.
- Once approved, the rule would affect more than 68,000 providers, including kidney dialysis centers and home health agencies.
A draft of the rule was released in 2013, but it has never been finalized. The New York Times suggested the delay could be due to push back from healthcare groups, which claim some of the provisions could be overly burdensome, particularly for smaller facilities. An OMB spokeswoman told the newspaper the 90-day review period had been extended.
Surprisingly, critical care facilities today aren’t required to have even minimal plans for handling major disasters.
The rule was prompted by the chaotic responses to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and would address help to ease concerns about the nation’s preparedness to handle potential threats such as the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The American Hospital Association agrees with the overall thrust of the rule, but wants Medicare to align its provisions with emergency preparedness standards developed by the Joint Commission and other entities, AHA Senior Vice President Ashley Thompson told The New York Times.