After generator rule deadline passes, AHCA's tactic draws confusion - Florida Politics

After generator rule deadline passes, AHCA’s tactic draws confusion

A day after the Agency for Health Care Administration was criticized for erroneously claiming in a press release that five nursing home facilities had not met a key deadline in Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency generator rule, the agency said it prompted an “excellent result” with facilities submitting their information.

The Florida Health Care Association, though, said it just added confusion to the process.

Emmett Reed, the executive director of the FHCA, an organization that represent most of the 683 nursing homes in the state, also said AHCA chose to use the media as “a vehicle to release unfavorable information about nursing homes that are in fact working to comply” with Scott’s rule.

AHCA initially said in the press release that 23 nursing homes had failed to submit their emergency plan by Oct. 31, a violation of Scott’s rule. While the rule has been successfully challenged in administrative court, AHCA is appealing it, meaning the rule is still in place and nursing homes that don’t comply with deadlines could be fined.

Despite the tactic being criticized by nursing home groups, Molly McKinstry, the deputy secretary of AHCA, said the information that was published “had an excellent result.”

“We’ve had many facilities submitting information — I think in many cases they were in compliance and had not done the proper notification,” McKinstry said during a House Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness on Thursday.

After the statement was released, the state agency corrected the list on its website, but did not send out the corrected version of the list to media. The list now has 18 facilities that have not complied with the rule.

The state’s Department of Elder Affairs, which is carrying out Scott’s rule as well, was also slammed for following a similar strategy. The DOEA released a list naming assisted-living facilities that were reportedly non responsive to the rule’s deadline. Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, said the list would likely be “fraught with errors.”

“As our members continue to work in good faith toward achieving the Governor’s goal, the release of these lists, both of which contained inaccurate information, demonstrates that there continues to be significant confusion surrounding this issue,” Bahmer said.

LeadingAge Florida is one of the associations that challenged Scott’s rule in administrative court.

Ashley Chambers, a spokesperson with the DOEA, said there was good coming out of the list because “it encouraged people to call in.”

Chambers added the department has taken calls from people who claimed they shouldn’t have been on the list, and that the department is working to put the most accurate information out as they verify those claims.

The emergency generator rule was implemented days after eight nursing home residents initially died in the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills when Hurricane Irma hit. There are now 14 deaths at this facility, which lost power and its cooling system crashing during the storm.

Scott’s rule requires nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the state to have generators capable of maintaining comfortable temperatures for at least four days in case of a power outage.

Facilities that are not in compliance with Scott’s rule face a $1,000 fine for each day they don’t meet the requirement, a detail that concerned Rep. MaryLynn Magar, a Tequesta Republican, who is aware that the rule is being challenged in administrative court.

When asked if fines would be reimbursed if AHCA’s appeal is thrown out, McKinstry said facilities would have the option to challenge the fines, if imposed.

“It is not our intent to impose the sanctions, but unfortunately that sometimes creates a motivation,” McKinstry said.

Ana covers politics and policy for Florida Politics. Before joining Florida Politics, she was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.
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