Federal rule could change how hospitals prepare for emergencies: 7 things to know

Hospitals and health systems may have to adhere to a new federal rule in preparing for emergencies, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, bioterrorist attacks and infectious epidemics such as Ebola and Zika, according to a report from The New York Times.

Here are seven things to know about the proposed rule.

1. The proposed rule would require a wide range of healthcare providers to make preparations for major emergencies if they want to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Currently, federal rules do not require critical medical institutions to make even minimal preparations for such disasters, according to the report.

2.  According to The New York Times, the proposed rule would potentially affect 68,000 providers, including hospitals, kidney dialysis centers, psychiatric treatment facilities, home health agencies and organ transplant procurement organizations.

3. These providers would be required to conduct regular disaster drills, have plans for maintaining services during power failures and create systems to track and care for displaced patients, according to the report.

4. Healthcare industry experts are currently awaiting release of the rule. A draft of the proposed rule was made public in 2013. However, the rule has still not been finalized, and appears to be stalled, according to the report. It is currently with the Office of Management and Budget, undergoing a legally required review.

5. According to The New York Times, the long wait on the proposal could be attributed, in part, to opposition from healthcare groups, which have contended that certain provisions, such as testing backup generators more frequently and for longer time periods, were too expensive and unnecessary.

6. Ashley Thompson, a senior vice president at the American Hospital Association, told The New York Times AHA generally agrees with the proposal, but wants Medicare to align its requirements with crisis preparedness standards developed by other bodies, including the Joint Commission.

7. The statutory deadline for the rule is three years from proposal to publication, and if it is approved, much of its strength will depend on how it is interpreted and enforced, according to the report. 


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