The phrase “government regulation” usually implies something bad. But sometimes, a few new seemingly minor regulations can have a positive impact. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (cms.gov) provides the latest example:
Describing emergency preparedness as an “urgent public health issue,” the proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services offers regulations aimed at preventing the severe disruptions to health care that followed Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. More than 68,000 institutions would be affected, including large hospital chains, “mom and pop” nursing homes, home health agencies, rural health clinics, organ transplant procurement organizations, outpatient surgery sites, psychiatric hospitals for youths and kidney dialysis centers.
It might seem like common sense, but previously health care organizations and facilities were required to do very little in terms of preparedness. Because of the market share that Medicare and Medicaid holds, that is going to change:
The regulations would require hospitals, nursing facilities and group homes to have plans to maintain emergency lighting, fire safety systems, and sewage and waste disposal during power losses, and to keep temperatures at a safe level for patients.
Those inpatient facilities would also be expected to track displaced patients, provide care at alternate sites and handle volunteers. Transplant centers would need to identify alternate hospitals for patients awaiting organs — a challenge because centers maintain different transplant criteria.
Home health care agencies would be required to help patients create personalized disaster plans. Hospices and others caring for frail, homebound patients would need procedures to help rescuers locate them. And health care employees would have to conduct disaster drills, while administrators might have to coordinate drills and response plans with local business competitors.
What is aggravating is that the seemingly sensible is so strenuously contested:
One of the most contested of the requirements calls for hospitals and nursing homes to test backup generators for extended periods at least yearly rather than once every three years, as is currently recommended. The generators have sometimes failed catastrophically during prolonged power losses.
This is not a narrow effort, but instead applies to a wide range of health care organizations:
The current proposal is unusual because it applies to 17 types of providers at once, which together serve an estimated nine million fee-for-service patients each month, as well as other patients covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicaid. Federal officials said this broad approach was needed to ensure that the health care system pulls together and that poorly prepared institutions do not stress others during a crisis.
You can read more about this effort, including the push back , here: http://nyti.ms/1fndiuP