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 New Emergency Preparedness Law Marks Major Advance for Providers

President Trump has signed into law an update to emergency preparedness programs and their funding in order to better protect the country from manmade or naturally occurring public health emergencies. Included in the law is a significant victory for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), given new provisions that elevate SNFs to the same level as acute-care hospitals for power restoration and inclusion of nursing facilities in pre-disaster emergency planning.

Trump signed S 1379, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act on June 7, after the House passed the measure on June 4. The Senate had approved the legislation on May 16.

The specific part of the law affecting skilled nursing providers is Section 202, which amends the “Improving State and Local Public Health Security” code.

This section awards cooperative agreements to eligible entities to prepare and submit emergency plans to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) advocates say. 

It also adds long term care facilities to the section that previously included just hospitals to coordinate an emergency plan. In addition, the section now says utility companies must be consulted to figure out in the emergency plan how to help ensure critical infrastructure will remain functioning during, or return to function as soon as practicable after, a public health emergency.

Importantly, this language puts LT/PAC and the power companies at the table for emergency preparedness and response planning, sources said. 

Responding to the legislation becoming law, Clifton Porter II, senior vice president of government relations for the American Health Care Association, says, “What this law does is it puts us at a much higher priority, which is safer for our patients. That’s the bottom line.”

In support of the legislation on the House floor earlier in the week, bill sponsor Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said new language and provisions will better serve the nation’s ability to prepare and respond to threats. 

“This bill updates that original legislation by directing federal agencies to respond to new and emerging threats and also strengthen our nation’s existing preparedness and response programs,” she said. “This bill reauthorizes critical programs that ensure our nation is prepared to respond to naturally occurring and manmade disasters.”

Porter says when thinking of recent disasters in places like Texas and Florida, there is always a lot of talk about having emergency power and back-up power in facilities, which is something that should be a priority without question. But, now with this updated law, “it ensures that we are top tier on the restoration list. Hospitals are top tier, and justifiably so, and now so are we.” 

Speaking about what providers should do now, given their new seat at the table for emergency planning and response, Porter says it is vital that operators make sure they are working with their local emergency management professionals. “In particular as it pertains to disaster preparedness and the importance of being proactive,” he says. “There needs to be a very diligent and proactive approach to getting ahead of some of these issues.”  

Included in the law are numerous funding provisions, such as $685 million for Public Health Emergency Preparedness agreements with states, $610 million for the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies, and $161.8 million to support biosurveillance activities.
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