Senate committee kicks off investigation into nursing home emergency preparedness rules

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced their inquiry on Wednesday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced their inquiry on Wednesday.

The Senate Finance Committee will be scrutinizing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' upcoming emergency preparedness rules for nursing homes in light of recent hurricanes, committee leaders announced Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma calling for information on the requirements for emergency preparedness, as well as the agency's response standards for long-term care facilities.

The letter also requested information on penalties for facilities that fail to keep temperatures between 71 and 81 degrees, as required by federal regulations, and what temperatures must be maintained in the upcoming emergency preparedness rule. The senators also called for information on facilities' life support systems, emergency risk assessments, evacuation procedures, and whether CMS plans to review its emergency preparedness rules following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The letter specifically references the 14 resident deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, FL. It also notes a Texas assisted living facility that had a photo of its residents sitting in waist-deep water posted online, attracting national attention.

Hatch and Wyden asked Verma for ownership information on Hollywood Hills, as well as whether both of the facilities participate in Medicare or Medicaid. The letter requests the information by Nov. 15.

The committee also sent letters to the state health agencies in Texas and Florida, calling for information on how the states prepared for and responded to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively, as well as the inspection and licensing history of both La Vita Bella and Hollywood Hills.

“By providing this information, we can better understand what needs to be done at the Federal level to ensure that nursing homes and other similar facilities are prepared to respond to natural and manmade disasters,” the letters state.