CMS steps up emergency preparedness under Final rule

CMS is requiring Medicare and Medicaid providers to take additional steps to plan for disasters and emergency situations under a new Final rule. In addition to requiring providers to develop their own plans for emergency scenarios, the Final rule obligates Medicare and Medicaid providers to prepare for emergencies by coordinating with federal, state tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems. The rule also imposes training requirements on providers. The Final rule, issued as an advanced release, is set to be published in the Federal Register on September 16, 2016.

Best practices

Under current rules, providers are required to have some emergency preparedness. For example, hospitals must provide for emergency power and lighting in specified areas and provide facilities for emergency gas and water supply. However, CMS believes the current requirements fall short. The Final rule seeks to improve on the status quo by centering requirements on what CMS calls “common and well-known industry best practice standards” for emergency preparedness, including the development of: (1) risk assessment based emergency plans; (2) policies and procedures based upon the risk assessment; (3) a coordinated communication plan to reach within facilities, across providers, and to State and local public health departments and emergency systems; and (4) and a training and testing program including drills and exercises.

Provider-specific requirements

Although all providers are obligated to comply with the Final rule’s best practices, specific requirements vary for individual provider types. For example, outpatient providers, ambulatory surgical centers, and end-stage renal disease facilities are not obligated to develop policies and procedures for provision of subsistence needs. For other providers, there are additional requirements. For example, under their emergency plans, hospitals, critical access hospitals, and long term care facilities must install emergency and standby power systems. Health care providers and suppliers impacted by the rule have one year from the effective date—60 days after publication—to comply with the new regulations.