Medicare's Response to Hurricanes

Published 09/26/2018

A hurricane can be thought of as nature at its worst. When the storm is over, then we see people at their best. But for people with Medicare, you may be worried about your care and your benefits. However, there are provisions that can be put into place to eliminate those concerns.

It all begins when the President of the United States declares a state of emergency for a hurricane; then the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can declare that a Public Health Emergency exists in affected states. For last year’s hurricane season, those states were: Texas and Louisiana (Hurricane Harvey), Florida, Georgia and South Carolina (Hurricane Irma), and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Hurricanes Irma and Maria). A Public Health Emergency is still in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands as a consequence of Hurricane Maria. For this hurricane season, a public health emergency has been declared for the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Commonwealth of Virginia as a result of Hurricane Florence.   

Under Section 1135 or 1812(f) of the Social Security Act, CMS can issue 'blanket waivers' for providers and suppliers when it comes to services that are provided by skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and critical access hospitals. Measures are in place to assist with durable medical equipment and supplies, as well as quality reporting, extending appeals time limit, and getting replacement prescription refills.

As an example in an impacted area, when a waiver is granted for submitting appeal requests (which normally would need to be filed 120 days from the date of the claim denial notification), an appeal may be filed after the 120 days based on CMS guidance.

CMS staff works tirelessly to help participating hospitals/healthcare facilities to give timely care to as many people as possible impacted by a hurricane.

Hurricanes don't discriminate in terms of destruction, and there are times when a person only has the clothes on their back – but no wallet or Medicare card to get assistance. If you lose your Medicare card, you can call our Beneficiary Customer Service Center at 800-833-4455, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET to order a new one. For the hearing impaired, call TTY/TDD at 877-566-3572. You may also call the Railroad Retirement Board at 877-772-5772.

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