After Hurricanes, Senators Call for Oversight Committee on Senior Safety

After the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, U.S. Senators are stepping in to better protect seniors during emergencies by establishing a national oversight committee.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this week filed legislation that would create a National Advisory Committee on Seniors and Disasters, a 15-member board that would help states implement emergency preparedness plans for home health care providers, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and other senior-care operators.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican and Florida’s other senator, also sponsored the bill, along with fellow Senate Special Committee on Aging members Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican.


The bill comes as home health care agencies are working to comply with new emergency preparedness rules set to go into effect Nov. 15.

The committee held a hearing on disaster preparedness Wednesday in response to the tragedy in Hollywood, Florida, where a lack of power in the wake of Hurricane Irma led to the deaths of 10 residents. The senators also cited the image of assisted living residents in Dickinson, Texas awaiting rescue from Hurricane Harvey in a flooded room.

While the news helped bring forth the oversight committee proposal, home health care providers in the state could also be impacted by the bill.


The advisory board would consist of officials from a variety of federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Members would report to the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), who would also be required to consult with his or her counterparts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“What happened in Hollywood is inexcusable, and this bill will require the head of HHS to appoint a panel of experts to provide our state and local leaders with the guidance they need to make sure such a tragedy never happens again,” Nelson said in a Facebook post announcing the legislation.

Written by Alex Spanko

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