Bill would require more emergency prep in nursing homes

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A new bill seeks to bolster emergency preparedness at the nation's nursing homes, even as the Trump administration backs away from some non-compliance penalties.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) are lead sponsors of a bill that would require nursing homes to have alternative sources of energy capable of heating, cooling and venting a building for at least four days in case of an emergency; prioritize nursing homes in the same manner as hospitals during public health emergencies; and authorize civil penalties up to $100,000 for non-compliance resulting in a resident's death.

Wasserman Schultz first proposed new rules in October, a month after 14 residents died from heat-related illness in a Hollywood, FL, nursing home days after Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning there.

At the time, she decried lax enforcement and said too many nursing homes accepted the cost of potential fines instead of investing in alternative power supplies.

The new bill was introduced Dec. 20, just days before a New York Times report noted the Trump administration had scaled back its use of fines against nursing homes with regard to resident harm.

“Now is not the time for Trump to roll back fines that noncompliant nursing homes face when they put our seniors in harm's way,” Wasserman Schultz tweeted, after the story hit.