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 CMS Proposes National Requirement For Emergency Readiness

The Obama administration is proposing federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid providers to come up with standardized emergency plans. 
In a notice of proposed rulemaking published late Friday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says it wants providers to “ensure that they adequately plan for both natural and man-made disasters and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems.”
The proposed rules “would also ensure that these providers and suppliers are adequately prepared to meet the needs of patients, residents, clients, and participants during disaster and emergency situations.”
The elderly suffer the worst during disasters, data have shown, and nursing homes from California to New York can offer grim testimony on how the stress of evacuations alone can be fatal to their residents.
In Louisiana, about 71 percent of those who died following Hurricane Katrina were 60 years or older; about half of those who died after Hurricane Sandy struck New York were 65 or older.
After Sandy did her worst in New York, groups such as the Gerontological Society of America called for a more forward-thinking approach to saving seniors from disasters.
“We don’t have continuity in the disaster infrastructure for older adults,” society member and University of South Florida Professor Lisa Brown said at the time. “Our efforts tend to be more reactive post-disaster than proactive pre-disaster.”
Despite the consensus around the need for comprehensive disaster planning and training for the elderly, there may yet be concerns about the specifics in CMS’ proposal. The long term care profession is already subject to a Borgesian library’s worth of regulations—more rules even than nuclear power plants. 
CMS says it’s considering “preparedness requirements that 17 provider and supplier types must meet to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.” 
The proposed rules would tweak existing rules, CMS says, without elaborating further.
“Despite these variations, our proposed regulations would provider generally consistent emergency preparedness requirements, enhance patient safety during emergencies for persons served by Medicare- and Medicaid-participating facilities, and establish a more coordinated and defined response to natural and man-made disasters,” CMS says in its rulemaking notice.
Long term care advocates are reviewing CMS’ proposed rules and will be “developing comments” of its own, says Lyn Bentley, senior director of the American Health Care Association’s regulatory services. 
Comments on CMS’ proposed rules are due by Feb. 25.

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