CMS offers broad support for North Carolina and South Carolina with Hurricane Florence preparation
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced efforts underway to support North Carolina and South Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence. Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared public health emergencies (PHE) in both states. CMS is working to ensure hospitals and other facilities can continue operations and provide access to care despite the effects of Hurricane Florence. CMS has waived certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements; created special enrollment opportunities for individuals to access healthcare immediately; and taken steps to ensure dialysis patients obtain critical life-saving services.
“At the direction of President Trump, CMS is doing everything within its power to provide assistance and relief to those affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina,” said Seema Verma, CMS Administrator. “We are coordinating with federal and local officials to make sure that our beneficiaries, many of whom are some of America’s most vulnerable citizens, have access to the healthcare they need.”
Below are key administrative actions CMS has taken in response to the PHEs declared in North Carolina and South Carolina:
- 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 North Carolina and South Carolina. 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 the End Stage Renal Disease Network of the South Atlantic, ESRD NW 6, 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 800-524-7139 and the KCER hotline is 866-901-3773. Additional information is available on 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 North Carolina and South Carolina, 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.