A proposed rule requiring Florida nursing homes to have backup power in the event of an outage advanced Tuesday in the Florida Legislature.
The proposal now heads to the full House after being passed Tuesday by that chamber's Health and Human Services Committee.
It would require facilities to have a generator capable of keeping facilities at 81 degrees or lower for at least four days. It also requires them to keep 72 hours of fuel on site.
A rule to that effect was originally issued by Gov. Rick Scott and the state's Agency for Health Care Administration after residents died in a sweltering South Florida nursing home last September following Hurricane Irma. At the time, the rule stated that nursing homes and assisted living facilities had to be in compliance by Nov. 15 or face a fine of $1,000 per day. But an administrative judge on Oct. 27 sided with nursing homes that had challenged the rules due to the tight deadlines.
AHCA Secretary Justin Senior said the new rule proposal would give seniors adequate protection in the event of a disaster.
"As we look at these facilities what we saw that those not having power slowed down restorations throughout the state. This will enhance power companies to restore power faster to large populations," he said.
The proposal before lawmakers does not mandate generators at assisted living facilities, over the objections of Scott. McKinley Lewis, the deputy communications director for Gov. Scott, said the governor's office is working with the Legislature to see if changes can be made
"Assisted living facilities need to be included, and hundreds of nursing homes and ALF's have already agreed to follow the Governor's rule," Lewis said in an email.
State laws also mandate that any rule that increases the costs for a business over $1 million over a five-year period must be ratified by the Legislature. According to a Legislative staff analysis, the total costs for nursing homes to be in compliance statewide would be $108,224,945. The estimated coast for a generator for a 120-bed facility is $315,000 according to an AHCA study.
All 577 nursing homes in Florida must be in compliance by July 1, but as of Jan. 8, 108 were already in compliance. AHCA can grant an extension until Jan. 1, 2019, for nursing homes that would face delays in installing equipment.
Rep. Travis Cummings, who chairs the Health & Human Services Committee, said the costs for the state's 2,951 assisted living facilities would have put financial constraints on those facilities and the state.
"In my opinion the reasoning we are not mandating is they are private entities. Many are smaller and family run," he said. "There are some fiscal constraints at this time."