Assisted living generator bill headed to Florida governor's desk

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott

A bill requiring assisted living communities in Florida to purchase backup generators and have fuel on site is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott's desk for signing after the Florida legislature approved it last week.

The proposed rule ratified by SB 7028 is expected to cost operators more than $243 million over the next five years, calculated the state Department of Elder Affairs, which issued the rule at Scott's direction. The department's earlier estimate of $280 million was modified. Ratification of the rule was required because the five-year cost of the measure was more than $1 million.

The rule requires each assisted living community to have a backup power source that can maintain an air conditioning system during a power outage. Air temperature in the community must be maintained at or below 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The backup power source can be portable but must provide at least 20 square feet of cool space per resident, calculated based on 80% of the community's licensed number of beds. Communities with fewer than 17 beds also must have 48 hours worth of fuel on hand, and larger ones must have 72 hours worth of fuel.

The bill passed the Florida Senate 37-0 on March 5 and passed the House 108-1 on Friday. The legislature earlier in the week had approved a similar rule applicable to nursing homes.

Both rules replace emergency rules that the governor had called for in September following the deaths of eight residents of a Hollywood, FL, rehabilitation facility after a power outage related to Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning. Six additional residents of the facility later died, and a medical examiner ruled that 12 of the deaths were homicides caused by environmental heat exposure.

Provider organizations argued that the emergency rules and subsequent efforts did not factor in enough time for compliance. After legal challenges, the governor and the assisted living and nursing home industries agreed to modified rules in January.

The revised proposed assisted living rule had stalled in the state House earlier in March due to concerns about costs that operators could incur because many are smaller businesses that do not receive reimbursements for services from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as nursing homes do.

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