New regs for Friday: Medical emergency response plans, helicopter safety

Friday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for healthcare companies and helicopters. Here's what is happening:

Emergency response plans: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is delaying an emergency preparedness rule for participating providers and suppliers.

The agency announced Thursday that it is extending the comment period on the emergency preparedness rule through March 31, from Feb. 25, after several healthcare organizations requested more time to respond. The rule was proposed last December.

The proposed rules, which would apply to 17 types of a providers and suppliers, would revise emergency preparedness requirements for some of these companies, and establish new requirements for those companies that do not already have plans in place.

The rules would require each provider and supplier to develop an emergency plan designed to respond to all hazards that could emerge, and implement policies and procedures from that plan. It would also require providers and suppliers to develop a communication plan to reach out to patients and other members of the community during a disaster to make sure that those who need medical attention receive it. These healthcare companies would also be required to train their staff how to deal with crisis situations and to test their emergency preparedness program each year.

These new standards would ensure that healthcare providers and suppliers are prepared for natural and man-made disasters, as well as know which federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate with in order to meet the needs of patients and others in the community during a crisis.

Helicopter: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving forward with a rule aimed at preventing helicopter crashes. The final rule would apply to air ambulance helicopters, commercial helicopters, and general aviation helicopters.

The FAA's rule is a response to an increasing number of a fatal helicopter air ambulance crashes. It would implement new operational procedures and provide pilots with additional equipment designed to protect the helicopter.

The rule will also update equipment, pilot testing, and alternate airport requirements for commercial helicopters, and increase the weather minimums for all general aviation helicopter operations in an effort to increase safety.

"Today's changes are intended to provide certificate holders and pilots with additional tools and procedures that will aid in preventing accidents," the FAA wrote.

EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with a rule that will eliminate the requirement to establish a maximum permissible level for alkyl alcohol alkoxylate phosphate and sulfate residues. The rule goes into effect immediately.

In a related rule, the EPA is also establishing tolerances for saflufenacil residues, which is a new herbicide that farmers use to control weeds in crops of soybeans and corn. This rule also goes into effect immediately.

NASA: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced plans to release an update to studies about asteroids in the near future. The studies will address the technology needs for the asteroid redirect mission, Mars missions, sensor systems, secondary payloads, and commercial and international partnership opportunities. NASA plans to update this information during a public forum on March 26.