The CMS on Thursday finalized a rule that requires providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid to have adequate emergency preparedness plans.
Some changes were made to the rule as originally proposed, including some flexibility in annual testing and removing requirements for extra generator testing.
Providers must adhere to four best practice standards: developing an emergency plan, creating a communications plan, having a training program and developing appropriate policies and procedures, according to the rule.
In a statement, officials said the new rule is needed because requirements were not comprehensive enough and natural and man-made disasters can endanger patients.
"As people with medical needs are cared for in increasingly diverse settings, disaster preparedness is not only a responsibility of hospitals, but of many other providers and suppliers of healthcare services," said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. "Whether it's trauma care or long-term nursing care or a home health service, patients' needs for healthcare don't stop when disasters strike; in fact their needs often increase in the immediate aftermath of a disaster."
The American Hospital Association, among others, has raised concerns about the cost of developing such plans, which the CMS predicted would be about $225 million for 83,000 affected providers. AHA said the CMS may have "significantly underestimated the burden and cost associated with complying with this rule."