Florida nursing home bill offers incentive for hurricane readiness

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As yet another monster hurricane takes aim at the Gulf Coast, Florida lawmakers are considering legislation that would provide the state's nursing homes with funds to beef up their emergency plans.

Under the measure proposed earlier this week by Sen. Gwen Margolis (D), nursing homes could get reimbursed for upgrading their emergency power generators if they agree to take hurricane evacuees from nursing homes in evacuated areas. Facilities considered for reimbursement would not be in coastal evacuation areas. Hurricane Wilma is currently headed towards the west coast of Florida, which it might hit Saturday, forecasters said. 

The bill, which has the support of the Florida Health Care Association, is designed to increase the number of places suitable to take residents who must be evacuated, Margolis said. She noted that the need for such legislation became evident during Hurricane Katrina, when it was clear that some of the state's nursing homes had underdeveloped evacuation plans.

The one-time cost to the state would be an estimated $40 million for more than 450 homes to upgrade generators, according to bill co-sponsor Sen. Skip Campbell.