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CMS strengthens federal support to California residents affected by wildfires

CMS strengthens federal support to California residents affected by wildfires

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today announced that the agency has taken immediate steps and is monitoring conditions in support of California residents displaced and recovering from the wildfires devastating the state. On Oct. 15, 2017, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan declared a public health emergency (PHE) in the state of California retroactive to Oct. 8, 2017. The PHE allows CMS to waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements if necessary to provide health services.

“As residents of California work to recover and rebuild their lives following the damage caused by the recent wildfires, CMS is taking the necessary steps to provide flexibilities that help meet the medical needs of the individuals and families affected,” said Administrator Verma. “Our work will continue as long as those in need struggle to access care for themselves and their families.”

The agency has taken the following steps to support the state of California and those residents impacted by wildfires: 

  • Waivers for Skilled Nursing Facilities and Assistance for Hospitals and other Healthcare Facilities: CMS issued a blanket Skilled Nursing Facility waiver, described on the website below; and the Regional Office has provided numerous technical assistance responses to the state, California Hospital Association and providers on specific types of CMS and other HHS program flexibilities that were available with and without waivers. These program flexibilities and waivers work to provide continued access to care for beneficiaries.  For more information on the waivers CMS granted, visit
  • Special Enrollment Opportunities for Wildfire Victims: CMS has made available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries. This gives individuals and families impacted by the wildfires the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans immediately if eligible for a special enrollment period. For more information on these special enrollment periods, visit:
  • Dialysis Care: Dialysis patients who are unable to receive dialysis services at their usual facility and who need assistance to locate a facility where they can be dialyzed, should call the ESRD IPRO Network 17 (Northern California) Patient Hotline (800) 232-3773 for assistance. The following large dialysis organization hotline numbers are also available for patients: DaVita Emergency Dialysis Services: (800) 400-8331, Fresenius Kidney Care Emergency Hotline: (800) 626-1297, Dialysis Clinic Inc. (DCI) Emergency Command Center: (866) 424-1990, and U.S. Renal Care Emergency Hotline: (866) 671-USRC (8772).

We encourage people with federal benefits and providers and suppliers of healthcare equipment and services that have been impacted by the California wildfires, to seek help by visiting CMS’ emergency webpage (

To read updates regarding HHS activities related to the California wildfires, visit