CMS Continues Efforts to help with Hurricane Florence Emergency Response
Agency waivers take effect in Virginia
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced efforts underway to support Virginia in response to Hurricane Florence. This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Virginia. With the public health emergency in effect, CMS has taken several actions to provide immediate relief to all those affected by the hurricane along the east coast. The actions include temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements; creating special enrollment opportunities for individuals to access healthcare immediately; and taking steps to ensure dialysis patients obtain critical life-saving services.
“We are concerned for the residents of Virginia and, as Hurricane Florence continues to batter the east coast, we are making sure that CMS has policies in place to help support all that are impacted,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “The waivers that are now in effect in Virginia will give healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility to provide continued access to care during this storm. We will continue to monitor the effects of the hurricane and work closely with officials in Virginia.”
Below are key administrative actions CMS has taken in response to the PHE declared in Virginia:
- Waivers for Hospitals and other Healthcare Facilities: CMS has temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP requirements. CMS issued a number of blanket waivers, listed on the website below, and the CMS Regional Offices have granted other provider-specific requests for specific types of hospitals and other facilities in Virginia. These waivers work to provide continued access to care for beneficiaries. For more information on the waivers CMS granted, visit: www.cms.gov/emergency.
- Special Enrollment Opportunities for Hurricane Victims: CMS has made available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This gives people impacted by the hurricane the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for the special enrollment period. For more information on these special enrollment periods, visit:
- Disaster Preparedness Toolkit for State Medicaid Agencies: CMS developed an inventory of Medicaid and CHIP flexibilities and authorities available to states in the event of a disaster. For more information and to access the toolkit, visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/disaster-response-toolkit/index.html.
- Dialysis Care: CMS is helping patients obtain access to critical life-saving services. The Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) program has been activated ahead of the storm and is working with Quality Insights Renal Network 5, ESRD NW 5, to assess the status of dialysis facilities in the potentially impacted areas related to generators, alternate water supplies, education and materials for patients, and more. They are also assisting patients who have evacuated ahead of the storm to receive dialysis services in the location to which they are evacuating. Patients have been educated to have an emergency supply kit on hand including important personal, medical, and insurance information; contact information for their facility, the ESRD NW hotline number, and contact information of those with whom they may stay or for out-of-state contacts in a water proof bag. They have also been instructed to have on hand supplies to follow a three-day emergency diet. The ESRD NW toll-free hotline is 866-651-6272 and the KCER hotline is 866-901-3773. Additional information is available on the NW’s website at www.esrdnet5.org/Dialysis-Providers/Emergency-Preparedness.aspx or the KCER website www.kcercoalition.com.
- Medical equipment and supplies replacements: CMS temporarily suspended certain requirements necessary for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or realized damage to their durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies as a result of the hurricane. This will help to make sure that beneficiaries can continue to access the needed medical equipment and supplies they rely on each day. Medicare beneficiaries can contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for assistance.
- Suspension of Enforcement Activities: CMS will suspend current survey and enforcement activities for healthcare facilities in Virginia, but will continue to investigate allegations of immediate threat to patient health and safety.
- Ensuring Access to Care in Medicare Advantage and Part D. During a public health emergency, Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D Plan sponsors must take steps to maintain access to covered benefits for beneficiaries in affected areas. These steps include allowing Part A/B and supplemental Part C plan benefits to be furnished at specified non-contracted facilities and waiving, in full, requirements for gatekeeper referrals where applicable.
CMS will continue to work with all geographic areas impacted by Hurricane Florence. We encourage beneficiaries and providers of healthcare services that have been impacted to seek help by visiting CMS’ emergency webpage (www.cms.gov/emergency).
To read previous updates regarding HHS activities related to it hurricane response and recovery, visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/hurricane-response/index.html.