On December 20, 2017, legislation to improve emergency preparedness in nursing homes was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) and Congressman Tim Walberg (MI). This bipartisan legislation is in response to the devastating impact on nursing home residents of one of the worst hurricane seasons on record.
The bill, H.R. 4704, the Nursing Home Comfortable Air Ready for Emergencies (CARE) Act, would:
- Codify the federal Emergency Preparedness rule that went into effect November 15, 2017 for nursing homes.
- Mandate that facilities have in place an alternate source of energy capable of powering heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems following a natural disaster for at least 96 hours.
- Increase civil money penalties for facilities found out of compliance with CMS Requirements of Participation, including authorizing civil monetary penalties up to $100,000 for non-compliance resulting in a resident’s death.
- Direct the Secretary of HHS to review facilities based on the Emergency Preparedness (EP) rule and publish the findings on the Nursing Home Compare website.
- Create a loan fund for smaller facilities, or those serving more low-income residents, to come into compliance. Facilities must have a monthly rate of less than $6,000 for private rooms, or have fewer than 50 beds, to qualify.
- Require states to prioritize nursing homes in the same manner as hospitals are prioritized in All-Hazards Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans, and to include in those plans information on how utilities plan to ensure that nursing homes return to functioning as soon as practicable following a disaster.
Although the new Emergency Preparedness regulations are much more comprehensive and thorough than previous rules, they still leave critical gaps in resident safety. Such gaps include maintaining HVAC systems and power restoration, which are both addressed by the Nursing Home CARE Act. Consumer Voice believes H.R. 4704 would better protect nursing home residents in emergencies and is pleased to have assisted Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz in considering policy options.
To read the bill, go to: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr4704/BILLS-115hr4704ih.pdf.