CMS proposes new preparedness guidelines

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed new preparedness requirements for hospitals and other healthcare providers to mitigate man-made and natural disasters.

Hospitals, home health agencies, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, transplant centers, hospices and community health facilities would need to meet the four core elements of the preparedness plan. The four components of the proposal are risk assessment and planning, policies and procedures, communication plans and training and testing, Emergency Management reports.

If enacted, the proposal would require that providers accepting federal and state funding develop a plan to incorporate the four proposal components; all providers use an all-hazards approach; hospitals to maintain food and drink on hand for staff and patients, identify alternative sources of energy, address how sewage and waste would be disposed of, and create a policy to track staff and patients during a disaster; and hospitals identify alternative hospitals or sites in case of evacuation or emergency.

The preparedness requirements could lead to costly changes, such as updating old emergency power systems to keep air conditioning and heating units working and maintaining sewage and waste disposal during power outages. CMS projects the costs will be approximately $225 million for the first year and $41 million for each subsequent year.

While CMS estimated the cost per hospital would be approximately $8,000 annually, the American Hospital Association said CMS underestimated the cost and burden it would require for hospitals to comply with the changes. The American Hospital Association urged CMS to ensure that new guidelines enhance readiness without adding confusion or administrative burden.

CMS is reviewing comments and questions from a 60-day comment period. Following the review period, CMS will issue a final ruling in the Federal Register. The rule could either go into effect immediately or go into effect after some lag time, according to Emergency Management.