Assisted living generator rule stalls in Florida House

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A rule requiring assisted living communities in Florida to have backup generators has stalled in the state House of Representatives due to concerns about costs that operators could incur, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Florida House Health and Human Services Committee unanimously ratified a similar rule for nursing homes, the media outlet reported; committee Chairman Travis Cummings (R), however, said the assisted living rule would affect operators differently because most are smaller businesses that do not receive reimbursements for services from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as nursing homes do.

Gov. Rick Scott originally called for emergency generator rules 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 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. Those rules require ratification by the state legislature, according to the state Department of Elder Affairs, because they collectively would increase the cost of doing business by more than $200,000 in the aggregate. In November, the department estimated that the rule would cost the state's 3,111 assisted living operators a total of more than $280 million, but it later changed the dollar amount to $243 million.

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott told the Tampa Bay Times that the governor's office is “continuing to work with the Florida legislature to make sure this gets done.” The secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration said the organization is working with legislators on ways to lessen the financial effects of the rule on operators.

The state legislative session ends in March. As written, if the rule ultimately passes, then assisted living communities would be required to comply with it by July 1.

A spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association told the media outlet that if the assisted living rule is not passed, then the emergency rule “may be back on the table.”

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