Press Releases

CMS Announces Efforts to help with Hurricane Irma Emergency Response

Agency temporarily waives certain program requirements in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today announced the efforts that are underway to support the states and U.S. territories in the path of Hurricane Irma. Specific actions include temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements to provide immediate relief to those affected by the hurricane.

“CMS is working to do all we can to support Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the impacted region in the wake of this historic and destructive storm,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We understand the urgency and need to help provide relief to those potentially impacted by Hurricane Irma, which is why we are temporarily suspending some of our program requirements. CMS is committed to making sure that local governments, providers and facilities have the flexibility they need to ensure our beneficiaries have access to care during this emergency.” 

This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the public health emergency in effect, CMS has offered immediate administrative relief actions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including issuing several general waivers of certain requirements for specific types of providers in impacted geographic areas. These waivers work to prevent gaps in access to care for beneficiaries. These waivers include:

  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF): CMS waives requirements for a 3-day prior hospitalization before admission in order to receive Medicare SNF services and provides temporary emergency coverage of services in SNFs without a qualifying hospital stay for people who are evacuated, transferred, or otherwise dislocated due to Hurricane Irma. Certain people with Medicare benefits who recently exhausted their SNF benefits are authorized for renewed coverage without first having to start a new benefit period.
  • Home Health Agencies: This CMS waiver provides relief to Home Health Agencies on the timeframes related to completion of OASIS (assessment data) Transmission.
  • Critical Access Hospitals (CAH): CMS waives the requirements limiting the number of patient beds to 25, and allows for length of stays beyond the capped 96-hour time period.

CMS can also waive or modify certain Medicare provisions for providers, including deadlines, conditions of participation and certification requirements. Providers can now submit waiver requests to the state survey agency or the CMS regional office and they will be evaluated to ensure that they meet the requirements set out under the law. To help clarify billing instructions, CMS issued technical direction to the Medicare Administrative Contractors regarding the waivers and reminded area Medicare Advantage plans regarding their responsibilities to relax certain requirements during a disaster or emergency.

HHS Secretary also declared a public health emergency in the state of Florida.  CMS will continue to monitor the hurricane and will be ready to support other states and geographic areas in the path of these storms. The agency continues to update our emergency page ( with important information for state and local officials, providers, healthcare facilities and the public.

To read previous updates regarding HHS activities related to Hurricane Irma, please visit - Opens in a new window  

To learn more about HHS resources related to Hurricane Irma, please visit - Opens in a new window  - External Link Policy - Opens in a new window