CMS Takes Steps to help with Hurricane Michael Emergency Response
Agency waivers to take effect in Florida
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced steps taken by the agency to support Florida in response to Hurricane Michael. Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency (PHE) in Florida. With the PHE in effect, CMS has taken several actions to provide immediate relief to those impacted by the hurricane. The actions will 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.
“Reports have said that Hurricane Michael is an extremely dangerous storm and we urge those in the path to take steps to be safe,” Administrator Seema Verma said. “CMS has taken the measures necessary to help support everyone that could be impacted. The waivers that will be in effect in Florida will give healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility to provide continued access to care throughout this storm. We will continue to monitor the hurricane and work closely with officials in Florida.”
Below are key administrative actions CMS is taking in response to the PHE declared in Florida:
- Waivers for Hospitals, Healthcare Facilities, and Clinicians: CMS will be temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP requirements. CMS will be issuing a number of waivers as necessary, which will be listed on the website below, and the CMS Regional Offices will be granting other provider-specific requests for specific types of hospitals and other facilities in Florida. These waivers work to provide continued access to care for beneficiaries. For more information on the waivers CMS will grant, visit: www.cms.gov/emergency.
- Special Enrollment Opportunities for Individuals Impacted by the Hurricane: CMS has made special enrollment periods available for certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange and all Medicare beneficiaries. This gives people impacted by the hurricane the opportunity to gain access to health coverage on the Exchange or change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans 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 and is working with Quality Insights Renal Network 7, ESRD NW 7, 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 toll-free hotlines for each NW are: NW 7 – 1-800-826-3773, NW 8 – 1-877-936-9260, and NW 6 – 1-800-524-7139; and the KCER hotline is 866-901-3773. Additional information is available on the NW’s websites at https://www.hsag.com/en/esrd-networks/esrd-network-7/, http://esrdnetwork8.org/emergency-preparedness/patients, and https://network6.esrd.ipro.org/home/provider/patient-services/emergency-updates/ or the KCER website www.kcercoalition.com.
- Medical equipment and supplies replacements: CMS will temporarily suspend certain requirements necessary for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or sustained 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 the affected areas of Florida, 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 PHE, 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 Michael. 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 hurricane response and recovery, visit www.phe.gov/emergency.