Providers forced to invest $350 million more to keep power running in emergencies

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Providers to start paying for post-Irma upgrades
Providers to start paying for post-Irma upgrades

Now that Florida has passed a law requiring nursing homes to better prepare for long-term power outages, the bill is coming due.

Legislative experts have estimated it will cost providers some $350 million to purchase generators and other back-up power equipment that can support air conditioning for at least 96 hours after an outage.

Laws for skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities were crafted last year, following the death of 14 Hollywood Hills nursing home residents in a building that quickly overheated following September's Hurricane Irma.

“The ratification of these nursing home and ALF rules — it was a good win,” LeadingAge Florida spokeswoman Cecka Rose Green told Bloomberg Law. “It will benefit everyone involved.”

The association had presented a legal challenge to an earlier draft of the rules, but withdrew that when Gov. Rick Scott (R)  revised his plan to give providers more flexibility on meeting deadlines.

Lawmakers also agreed to grant the industry a sales tax exemption for the purchase of generators. The Tampa Bay Times also referred to an analysis that found nursing homes will likely be able to recoup about $66 million from Medicaid.

Providers also will have to have on hand power sources that can provide at least 30 square feet of cool space for each resident, and between 48 and 72  hours of fuel stored on site in case of emergency.

"We're glad to finally have some clarity on the requirements for our members," Gail Matillo, president of the trade group Florida Senior Living Association, said in a statement. "We'll work closely with our members to make sure they can comply in the best way possible."